Each day we all fleetingly brush past people we don’t know. We pass them on the street, sit near them in cafes, and wait with them in lines. Sometimes we even acknowledge their presence with a nod or smile as we move past them. Although we could never personally contact everyone we see each day, God’s desire is for all these people to accept Him into their lives. For someone, somewhere, we can be a part of God’s plan to save him or her.1
Read Matthew 9:36–38. Though spoken in a specific and unique context, the sentiments Jesus expressed are not limited to just that context. What was Jesus saying, and how do those words apply to the field in your immediate area?
The multitude that Jesus saw on this occasion was troubled and distressed. The people were so downcast that they had all but given up on any remnants of a religious experience they had left. Those whom God had placed in charge of the spiritual welfare of His people had neglected their duty. Consequently the people were scattered and disheartened. Jesus had compassion for them because He knew that they needed a spiritual shepherd.
Among the masses of people with whom we mingle, many are committed to Jesus Christ. But many more also desperately need the Good Shepherd. Somehow they must be reached for Christ.
Jesus, the disciples, and a few other followers had been engaged in the gospel harvest, but as the harvest grew, so did the need for more laborers. Although Jesus’ invitation to pray for more reapers was probably also calculated to get some followers to consider their own call to the harvest field, it also promises that God understands the need for more workers and will supply them.
Most churches are surrounded by such a large harvest field that it is not practical to leave the reaping up to a few members. When we have compassion for the people who live around our churches and our homes, in some cases numbered in the thousands, we again will sense the need to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send out workers, and perhaps, in turn, we will realize our potential as laborers for the Lord.
As we focus on outreach and evangelism, it is important that we continually review our potential local harvests. These local people, many of whom are already seeking God, will be impacted for good by the compassion we show them.
Discuss what you think the word compassion means. How can you learn from your own suffering and your own need for compassion? How can you learn to be more compassionate to those around you?