Sympathy for others
I include myself in that group.
I think about a particular family in the community, the Hs and U's. They all live in an old house (6 or 7 all together) that doesn't (or didn't until recently) have running water. They didn't have the money to fix the leaks, and the city shut them off due to lack of payment. Their health situation isn't the best. The kids, newly graduated from high school, don't have jobs and wander around town most days.
It is very easy to judge these people.
However, Mrs. U has been found to have ovarian cancer. Mr. U is pretty much in a nursing home now. Mr and Mrs H are old and in poor health - they haven't been seen for a while. The U daughter is pregnant, and the U boys have little or no ability to support the family.
It's really easy to tell these folks to get off their butts and get jobs. It's easy to tell them to stop smoking and drinking. It's easy to tell them to get a car so they can drive to Osceola or Chariton and get a job. They've been given opportunities to do so. Community members have helped pay for repairs to the house in the past. Jobs have been offered to the boys, only for them to stay for a few days and leave.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
So, what do you do? Do you turn a blind eye to them, hoping they'll go away? Do you think they are getting what they deserve for years of laziness and welfare pandering? Do you think about helping them, but then decide not to, believing that your gifts will be wasted and squandered? Or, do you do what is right; assist them as you are able to?
You'd think it would be a straight-forward answer - help them. But, that's part of the struggle for many - you know what you should do, but you don't, because you don't want to be made a fool or taken advantage of. You don't want your gift to contribute to their continued path of self-destruction. You want your gift to be held in the highest esteem by those you are helping. Maybe there's a little pride in your ability to give to others "lower" than you?
Do we really have sympathy for those who have have made poor decisions (judged by us) and are now suffering the consequences of those decisions?
Jesus provided to others, but commanded them to go and sin no more. He healed the blind because they believed in Him. He had sympathy for the downtrodden, but requested that they change their lives to become better people.
God doesn't call Christians to be fools, to be easily tricked into giving away their resources to distrustful or slothly people. He wants HIS resources to be used wisely, no matter who He entrusts them with at the time.
So, using the above situation, this could entail assisting the H's and U's with food, bottled water and toiletries, but not cash. It could mean providing the boys with some sort of employment, even if it is at minimum wage and would require extra supervision. It means giving the daughter some unused baby clothes.
Most of all, it means following the lead Jesus provided and give them sympathy, but not assist them in their self-destructive ways.
To be honest, this has been a struggle to write. A lot of self-examination took place. Maybe it will help you to do the same as well.
Happy New Year.