I am a firm believer in the Chinese Proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” So it is with that perspective, when I read Matthew 25: 35-40, I wonder, are charitable acts the only way to live up to what Jesus is telling us about the judgment of nations? Must the care for the hungry, care for the thirsty, care for the naked, or care for the sick simply be addressed through charity? Or, can this care be done in ways that allow these “least brothers” of Christ to provide for themselves?
In Mark 13:7, Jesus tells us, “The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them,” so there will always be a need for us to be charitable. Consider though, if, much like in the Chinese Proverb, we were to teach, and more importantly, provide opportunities for our brothers and sisters to feed, and cloth and care for themselves, we are also living the teachings of Jesus.
As business men and women, as entrepreneurs, as investors, we have been blessed with opportunities to use our God-given talents, our ideas, and the wealth that is the fruit of our labors to provide opportunities for the “least brothers” so they too may utilize their God-given talents. For instance, I was reading about the reopening of the Faribault Woolen Mill in Faribault, Minnesota (Faribault blanket mill revival restores US jobs, www.msnbc.com 11/06/2011). Two cousins have taken their talents, along with their wealth they earned in other ventures, and purchased the Faribault company out of bankruptcy. Earlier this year they reopened the mill, providing jobs once again to mill workers and weavers who either were unemployed, or were fortunate to find work elsewhere, but wanted to return to the mill. The 35 or so employees have been given an opportunity to use their God-given talents once again to earn a living and provide for themselves. This was made possible by two individuals who are using their God-given entrepreneurial talents. If I were to surmise that this is being done according to God’s will, in this one small example, there are now 35 or so people who are eating when hungry, drinking when thirsty, being treated when ill, and being clothed by the fruits of their own talents, made possible by the opportunity extended by two men who have the opportunity to use their own God-given entrepreneurial talent.
Let us not forget, although we may have taught a man to fish, he still needs opportunities to use those skills to feed him for a lifetime.