An Ox in the Well
August 24, 2021
“Then he asked them, ‘If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?’” (Luke 14:5, NIV).
My wife has been helping a friend of mine who is caught up in the prison system, now on parole. This requires extensive logistical help in getting him to places he needs to be, as he is not allowed to drive or use the internet. Two weeks ago, as we were leaving for our Bible study group, he called, needing a ride for a surprise inspection. My wife tried to get him an Uber, but the Uber was denied. He was stuck and in need. Our Bible fellowship had just started. I certainly needed that community that week, but I jumped up and drove to help our friend.
When is it okay to pull your ox out of the well?
When is it good to lay aside your own need for personal devotion to deal with the needs of others?
Perhaps our neighbor’s need should always win; but if we always answer the need, there will always be more than enough need to sap up all the time we have to spend with God.
A first principle is this: God really wants us to spend time with Him. He wants it out of love, because we are made whole only through our relationship with Him. Most of us don’t desire this relationship as much as God does; He died to make it happen. If we are not spending time each day in prayer, not studying His Word regularly, not attempting each Sabbath to rest and worship, not gathering with His bride, the church, we are underperforming God’s desire. Consequently, I suspect we are less likely to sacrificially serve those in need.
A second principle is this: Sometimes, God wants us to lay aside our time with Him in order to serve the people He loves. Jesus demonstrated this over and over when people needed healing or help in their struggles (Mark 3:1; Mark 1:32-34, John 5:9).
A third principle: Jesus never negated one principle to achieve the other. Even when the needs of people delayed Jesus’ need for time with the Father, He found the time late at night (Mark 6:46) and early in the morning (Mark 1:35) to reconnect with Abba.
Usually, it’s issues other than suffering people that threaten our time with God. We skip Him because there are pleasurable things we would rather do, or we skip Him because we don’t trust Him with our fatigue, finances and time-pressured schedules. If He is really God, He’s much busier than we are. But He never fails to listen when we call, and He never fails to make up for any loss that might come our way from spending time with Him. We need, more than anything else in our lives, to spend time with Him—but we also should be listening for His call to set aside our times of spiritual renewal when someone He loves is crying out in need.
The first two conflicting principles above fit together well within God’s plan, not unlike our clotting system, where Factor Five that drives thrombosis forward at the same time Protein C slows it down, with the balance leading to perfect blood flow. Thus so, the seemingly opposing time commitments of personal devotion and personal service are like these two opposing clotting proteins, working together to make God’s purpose flow smoothly though our lives.
Sometimes, we must decide between the two because we cannot be in two places at once. On these occasions, we need to trust His Spirit, holding both principles as paramount, realizing that we can never accomplish true good for another without ongoing communion with God and that we often come to know Him best when we are serving others in His Name.
Help me to understand how much you want me to spend time with you each day. And help me know when someone’s need outweighs that demand.