Jesus used two occasions of feeding a large crowd in a remote place to illustrate the responsibilities and expectations of a person called to provide goods or services to others as God’s provider assistant. God creates every person to be a potential provider (i.e., channel for his compassion) to others. He is the ultimate provider but often channels his providing through people by placing one or more persons in position to perform the needed service as his provider assistant. The chosen person is expected to recognize the need, assess how they could help, seek God’s direction, and proceed with providing for the need as they can.
PROVIDER ASSISTANT RESPONSIBILITIES Jesus used two occasions of feeding a large crowd as practical illustrations of what is expected of a person placed in position to provide for other people. In both cases, he was ministering to a crowd of several thousand that needed to be fed. His disciples took on the responsibility, realized feeding the crowd was beyond their means, sought direction from God (this time with them in person as Jesus), and he provided food for the crowd through his disciples. The disciples were the provider assistant and the people were the recipient. We examine interactions between Jesus and his disciples, him and the crowd, and the disciples and the crowd: to understand God’s expectations of a person that he calls to provide a service for other persons.
We begin our study of Christ’s direct teaching with a two-part discussion of the Sermon on the Mount: Christ’s elaborate sermon recorded in Matthew 5–7. The sermon was a teaching on living in the image of God, which we have also described as “positive human interaction:” i.e., living and interacting with people for the purpose of representing God in everything we do and accomplishing the objectives for which he created us. The sermon consists of two parts. In the first part, he provides the principles of living in the image of God. In this study, we identify the principles as eight steps, which are described in the bible as the Beatitudes. In the second part, he describes specific examples of application of the principles.
THE BEATITUDES Part 1 of our two-part discussion focuses on the Beatitudes: the first part of the Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes describe eight steps (or principles) for living in the image of God. The first three Beatitudes describe human relationship with God, the third through eighth describe human interactions, with an overlap in the third Beatitude because it applies to both human relationship with God and human interactions.
The angel that foretold the birth of John the Baptist said of him [Luke 1:16–17]: “He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” We examine the message of John the Baptist in this bible study, to understand his approach to his mission and how his teaching applies to present-day human interaction. The state of human interaction as he saw it was dominated by predator-versus-prey type relationships, whereby people sought to cheat others if they could. He preached a message of repentance [Matthew 3:2; Luke 3:3], that people had to repent from the life of preying on each other and turn to God’s ways in order to be acceptable into God’s kingdom. We examine other parts of the Scripture to understand that “God’s ways” refers to a state of human interaction characterized by mutual provider-receiver relationships, in which every person is a conveyor of the image of God and a channel for God’s compassion.
In this study we will learn that human beings are endowed with unlimited authority under God to seek understanding of the nature of things and use the understanding to manage relationships and provide for the needs of the earth and its inhabitants. The authority implies collective and individual rights and responsibilities regarding relationships among people and between people and other living and non-living inhabitants of the earth.