We’ve all now witnessed what we never expected: mounds of toilet paper piled in a shopping cart, shelves emptied of hand sanitizer and water, conflict over the last loaf of bread on the store rack. It’s an awful sight. People even have the shameful audacity to post pictures of their garage full of paper goods and food. This image does anything but highlight the nobility of the human spirit. Rather, it’s a sad sign of the lack of concern for others — a sign of selfishness, an expression of hoarding.
Hoarding is “collecting and often hiding away a supply of something of value.” In times of crisis, when resources dwindle, people seem especially prone to hoarding. Our self-interest shows our natural bent toward self-preservation, even at the expense of others. It speaks, quite frankly, to our sin. But what is even worse than potentially hurting others physically and temporally in a time of crisis is hurting others spiritually and eternally by hoarding the good news of the gospel, and all the more in a time of crisis.
Never Hoard Our Hope
Christians should be known for sharing, not amassing, especially when it comes to the most valuable commodity in the world, the gospel. When the world is in an uproar, being confronted with its mortality and helplessness, when it’s starving for hope in times of gloom and doom, we are those equipped and commissioned to bring them the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As believers, we nourish our souls through the gospel of God’s grace and mercy, which we feast on daily. We know the peace of Christ and his eternal assurance, even in the face of something like a global pandemic. But disobedience and selfishness often lead us to hoard the gospel our neighbors and friends desperately need, instead of offering it freely, even boldly. Just as medical officials have labored to bring people the hope of a cure for those infected with the virus, Christians ought to labor to bring people the gospel, which alone can cure all infected with unforgiven sin.
So, how can we be more mindful of our own temptation to be spiritual hoarders? Are there some helpful reminders to not only feast on the gospel, but also to feed others with the gospel, especially in times like these?
Three Lessons from Four Lepers
Consider the powerful story recorded in 2 Kings 7 of four lepers who provide for believers a penetrating illustration of both the temptation to hoard and the conviction to share when good news is discovered in the midst of a crisis.
As Israel sat languishing in famine because of God’s judgment at the hands of an invading army, four lepers left the city of Samaria seeking food to survive from the enemy’s camp (2 Kings 7:1–5). The four lepers came upon the greatest provision imaginable. Unknown to them, God scattered the foreign army, who left all their goods behind for the taking. They feasted on the food and hid the spoils. Tent after tent, feast after feast, they enjoyed God’s gracious provision, seemingly forgetting about those starving back at home (2 Kings 7:6–8).
But they soon began to remember. And as they came to their senses, they gave three instructive reminders to those of us who have feasted on the soul-satisfying gospel of life-giving grace:
Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.” (2 Kings 7:9)
1. Gospel Silence Is Wrong
As the lepers were pricked in their consciences because of their silence, Christians would do well to consider the disobedience of our silence.
God not only means for us to feast on the gospel, but he has commissioned us to announce the glad tidings to other starving sinners (Matthew 28:19). To have tasted of the goodness of Christ, as he is offered to us in the gospel, is to know the inexhaustible treasure of God’s mercy. Silence is never golden when it comes to the gospel.
And if Christians truly believe that Christ is the true bread of God which has come down from heaven for starving and dying sinners (John 6:58), why are there so many silent believers? We should feel the weight of responsibility to tell others of the richness of God’s grace that we’ve discovered in Christ. Motivated out of sheer gratitude and Christ-exalting reverence, our motto should be: “We also believe, and so we also speak” (2 Corinthians 4:13). It is not right to hoard what has been freely given to us when we know others need it every bit as much as we do.
2. Today Is the Day of Good News
Stimulated by the fear of punishment for not sharing their good news, the lepers recognized the urgency of their obligation to act immediately. We, too, have that same obligation.
With each passing day, numerous souls pass from this life into eternity — many with no hope in Christ. As the coronavirus has awakened the world to human frailty and the certainty of death, Christians have good news to proclaim — news that can’t wait until tomorrow.
I wonder what fear might prompt us to have a greater sense of urgency to speak today? Perhaps it’s the fear of our hearts growing cold and calloused toward the eternal suffering of others. Or maybe we should fear the loss of joy and delight of being God’s mouthpiece as he bids sinners to be reconciled to himself. Whatever the motivation, this current crisis is our day of good news as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation”
3. We Must Go and Tell
Once convinced of the wrongness of silence and the rightness of sharing, one thing was left for the lepers to do: go and tell their fellow-beggars the good news of what they found. And that’s our mission. That’s our privilege. They found a way back to the city to announce the good news. We find ways to announce the good news to our cities.
God providentially arrested the world’s attention through this pandemic, and Christians have the joyous pleasure of bringing the hope of eternal life to people starving for the resources that only God can provide. Our neighbors need the everlasting transformative gospel of Jesus Christ. The banquet of God’s saving delicacies is ready. Let’s use whatever means necessary to invite others to feast on God’s amazing grace.