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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Today’s Reading | Luke 18:35–43

As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” Then he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God. (NRSV)

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked the blind man who begged Jesus for mercy. I love that Jesus asked this question. It may seem obvious that what a blind man would want is to see again. But Jesus doesn’t assume that. He asks the man to tell him what he desires.

How often have we assumed, without asking or listening, that we know what another person wants? We do something we think is helpful or loving—what we think we would want if we were in another person’s situation. But our “recipient” feels otherwise. One of my friends made it clear upon leaving her job that she didn’t want a party given for her. She didn’t want money to be used to fund it, and she didn’t want the attention on her. She would have much preferred one-on-one conversations and cards. But her wish was not granted; a party was given. In what was meant to be an expression of appreciation, she felt uncomfortable and unheard, her wishes not respected.

In years past, the church has too often conducted its mission outreach this way. The name “do-gooder” has a negative connotation, implying that whatever “good” is offered has more to do with making the giver feel good than honoring the receiver. Givers mistakenly rush to do what they perceive to be best and overlook the capabilities, involvement, and hopes of those they seek to serve. Instead of “toxic charity” that assumes we know best, we need to build partnerships with people in mission to work toward shared goals that respect the dignity, gifts, and desires of others.

Merciful God, forgive me when I assume I know best what another needs or wants. Teach me to ask, listen, and respect in how I give. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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