Balance by James R. Coggins

I recently came across an online discussion criticizing evangelicals for being focused only on preaching the gospel and winning converts. Instead, those involved in the discussion said that Christians should be focused on social justice issues, feeding the hungry, visiting those in prison, and providing housing for the poor.

This is one of those occasions when it might be helpful to ask what Jesus would do. Or, more precisely, to consider what Jesus actually did. Following is a quick summary of Matthew 8-10:

In Matthew 8:1-4, after coming down from delivering the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus healed a man with leprosy.

In Matthew 8:5-13, Jesus healed a centurion’s servant and then used this to teach that the kingdom of God is also open to gentiles.

In Matthew 8:14-17, Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and many others.

In Matthew 8:18-22, in answer to a question, Jesus taught about the cost of following Him.

In Matthew 8:23-27, Jesus calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee, demonstrating to his closest followers that He is God.

In Matthew 8:28-34, Jesus delivered two men from demons, impressing a gentile town.

In Matthew 9:1-8, Jesus healed and forgave a paralyzed man, demonstrating to a crowd of Jews that He is divine.

In Matthew 9:9-13, Jesus called the tax collector Matthew (an agent of the hated Roman government) to follow Him and used the occasion to teach the Jews that He came to rescue sinners.

In Matthew 9:14-17, in answer to a question about fasting, Jesus taught that He was setting up a new kingdom, not restoring the Jewish one.

In Matthew 9:18-26, Jesus raised a girl from the dead and healed a sick woman.

In Matthew 9:27-34, Jesus healed two blind man and delivered a man from demon possession.

In Matthew 9:35-37, Jesus taught and healed and talked about the shortage of workers.

In Matthew 10, Jesus sent the Twelve out to preach and heal and gave them instructions on what they would encounter and how they should react. In other words, He told them to go out and do the things He had been doing, in spite of facing the same kind of opposition He had been facing.

Matthew 4:23 offers a summary of Jesus’ ministry: “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” The question of whether Jesus’ followers should focus on preaching or on doing good works is a false one. Jesus did both, and so should His followers. The works often provided opportunities for teaching, and the teaching helped prepare the way for the works. Before healing, Jesus spoke words such as, “Shall I come and heal?” (8:7), “Why are you afraid?” (Matthew 8:26), “Your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2), “Follow me” (Matthew 8:22, 9:9), and “Do you believe?” (Matthew 9:28).

The Old Testament prophets condemned the people of Israel for oppressing the poor and for being unfaithful to the one true God, often in the same sentence. Jesus both proclaimed the good news and healed the sick. The early church made a deep impact on the people of the Roman Empire both by preaching the gospel and by meeting a variety of practical needs. Early evangelicals were known both for their preaching of the gospel and for engaging in a host of social action projects, from abolishing slavery and improving working conditions to improving the treatment of animals. We should do the same.

About jrcoggins

James R. Coggins is a professional writer and editor based in British Columbia, Canada. He wrote his first novel in high school, but, fortunately for his later reputation as a writer, it was never published. He briefly served as a Christian magazine editor (for just over 20 years). He has written everything from scholarly and encyclopedia articles to jokes in Reader’s Digest (the jokes paid better). His six and a half published books include four John Smyth murder mysteries and one other, stand-alone novel. In his spare time, he operates Mill Lake Books, a small publishing imprint. His website is
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