Last week we talked about how the kingdom of God operates on faith. We can’t see this amazing kingdom we’re receiving, but we walk by faith, seeing the unseen, living our lives as if we really believe what we say we believe.
The author of Hebrews has been giving us lots of principles, but now in chapter 13 he gets practical. I love this stuff! It’s time to talk about what faith looks like in real life.
First, I want you to catch something. We didn’t study through the entire book of Hebrews together, but I think you can see this from just chapters 11 and 12. The writer is expecting you to know something. He is expecting you to understand… the Hebrews! After all, he’s writing to Hebrew people, about topics that Hebrew people would know very well. Like sacrifices. Famous Hebrew characters. Key events in Hebrew history.
To be fair, most all of the New Testament writers just expected that their audiences would know the Old Testament. My husband read a verse just this morning that illustrates this point.
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
So as we venture into Hebrews 13, trying to put some “how-to” on our knowledge, keep in mind that the author is expecting you to understand God’s law. To the Hebrews, God’s law was specifically the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. If you’ve never read through these books, you are totally missing the foundation for the rest of the Bible. It’s as if you’ve read the end of a novel without reading the beginning. Things in the Bible just aren’t going to make good sense to you! So I encourage you to grab your Bible today and start reading those essential first books!
Hebrews 13 feels a little disjointed to me. It’s as if the author just started making a list of everything he could think of that illustrates faith in action. There might be a logic here that I can’t see, but let’s just take a few weeks and go through each point on his “faith to do” list, one at time.
- “Keep on loving each other as brothers” (Hebrews 13:1). God’s law (those first 5 books) often refer to how the Hebrew people were to treat their fellow Hebrews. Yes, they could loan money to foreigners at interest, for instance, but they would never treat their own brothers that way (Leviticus 25:36-37). They weren’t to look at their own “family” as profit machines. They were to give generously, without any thought of what they’d get in return. This is how we are to treat each other, too. We need to see each other as family, giving without keeping score. Why can we do this? Because in God’s kingdom, all money belongs to Him. When I give to my brothers and sisters in Christ, I’m simply transferring God’s money from one heavenly “account” to another. God owns it all. I’m just a steward. He knows what I need. He knows what my family members need. It’s all the same to Him. So I walk in faith by giving to my brothers, without any fear or worry for the future.
- “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). Okay, we should treat our “brothers” with love, but we are to treat the “stranger” (foreigner or alien) in the same way. We’re to walk by faith, seeing things with spiritual eyes. Like angels. Maybe God has sent a scruffy stranger, or a disheveled child, or a lonely welfare recipient, to your door for you to help. Maybe you’re afraid you’ll be taken advantage of. Maybe you don’t want to give $20 to feed someone when you aren’t sure that they won’t spend it on cigarettes. There are ways to be wise, of course, but can you out-give God? Can’t He take care of the circumstances? Our job is just to look for the “angels” God has sent our way and to care for them in faith, without any fear or worry for the future.
- “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3). Ug! Prisoners? Okay, loving my brothers is one thing. I might even be able to help an occasional stranger. But prisoners? Those who are mistreated? What about abused mothers and children? If I help them, an angry father might show up on my doorstep! My own children might hear bad language. We might see someone who is drunk or high on drugs. Isn’t this taking things too far? Except that God’s Word says His law (those first 5 books) are summed up in this: Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18, Mark 12:31, Galatians 5:14). Love isn’t always pretty, is it? But God asks me to walk by faith, trusting Him for the outcome, without any fear or worry for the future.
Do you see the common theme here? Faith trusts God, walking in obedience to His commands, without any fear or worry for the future. We love others, brothers or not, without wondering if God will supply, if the person deserves our help, or what others might think. We open our hands to the poor and needy (Proverbs 31:20), simply because we see a kingdom that is spiritual.
- Jesus calls me His brother. He laid down His life for me.
- God owns the cattle on a thousand hills; He promises to supply my needs.
- Jesus was not ashamed of me.
- I am poor and needy, completely engulfed in sin; Jesus left all to seek and to save me.
Faith must show itself in actions. With God, those actions always start with how well we love others.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
P.S. You might enjoy an old post on this topic. Click here to read more!