Structural and Personal1
When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor.David said, “Mephibosheth!”“At your service,” he replied.“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”
- 2 Samuel 9:6-7
Today’s passage shows David helping Mephibosheth in a way that’s both systemic and personal. This is how to help in a way that both really helps and really honors the other person.
Start with the systemic. Actually, that’s not where we usually start. We usually start with an arm’s-length, one-time donation. But David started with a structural move.
To remix the phrase, Mephibosheth didn’t need a fish or a fishing lesson, he needed access to a pond. Stripped of his ancestral lands and crippled from his youth, he would have struggled to support himself. David gave him land and set him up with a team to work the land … essentially placing Mephibosheth at the head of his own small business. (This is what programs like Kiva and Heifer International do right now)
David would have been remarkably generous if his only act had been to set Mephibosheth up with land and employees. But David also wanted to develop a relationship with Mephibosheth. David saw him as a person to be loved rather than a problem to be solved. He couldn’t do this for everyone. Everyone couldn’t eat at his table. But David made room for Mephibosheth.
In a way, this is a great reminder of what the Lord does for us. He works in the structure of the cosmos through his death and resurrection to make it possible for us to receive liberation from our bondage to sin and death. At the same time, he cares about us personally and invites us to join his family, welcoming us to his table.
When we walk in step with his Spirit, we find ourselves drawn toward holistic engagement with people in need. Warm, fuzzy engagement leaves us feeling unsatisfied. Cold, arm’s-length charity feels uncharitable. The Spirit fills us with a desire for more.
Take some time today to ask the Lord to fill you with his Spirit in a fresh way. Ask him to give you wise insights to guide your attempts at structural benevolence. Ask him to open your heart that you might connect emotionally and relationally with those you are helping. See what he’ll do.