shedding new light on stories of old

Fish Tales (From the Belly of the Whale) - Preview 16

Discover the real story about who Jesus is willing to bless for their act of giving a cup of cold water

Misconception #39

When Jesus Commended a Person for Offering Water to the Least of His Brothers, He Meant it for Anyone in Need of a Helping Hand

It’s true: Everybody loves a good old-fashioned story of giving. Whether it’s Santa Claus handing out his bag of goodies on Christmas Eve, or Robin Hood stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, we all love the idea of someone who gives their all to make other people better off. We can’t help it; it makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. That’s how we are. After all, it’s just as Jesus said: “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.”1

That’s why this next misconception is so tricky to deal with.

In this case, what we’re dealing with is a statement Jesus made, in which He seems to commend anyone who offers a cup of cold water to people in need. Almost everyone is aware of the story in one form or another; almost everyone has his or her own take on it. But what does The Bible really have to say about it? We find the most familiar rendition of this story in The Gospel of Mark.

One day, Jesus was teaching His disciples about His Kingdom and the perils they’d have to endure to achieve His ultimate blessing. Then and there, He predicted His own impending death and resurrection, but they were too afraid to ask Him to explain what He was talking about. Confused, they were all too preoccupied with their own worries. Less concerned about the trials and tribulations that came with being associated with Jesus, they were more interested in finding out who among them was going to be the greatest in His Kingdom. But when Jesus asked them what they’d been quarreling about, the disciples were too embarrassed to admit what they’d been discussing. So Jesus proceeded to explain to them that anyone who wanted to be first in His Kingdom would have to be last, and a servant to everyone.

(…you’re reading Part 30 of a 41-part series. If you like what you’re reading and want to continue, please SCROLL DOWN. Or to read this series from the beginning, go to Part 1…)
Story Continues Below
To hear Kent and Zen Garcia talk about correcting biblical misconceptions, from September 9th, 2021, CLICK BELOW.
Story Continues From Above

Impetuous as ever, though, the disciples kept on griping, as they told Jesus about a stranger who they’d seen casting out demons in His Name. But because they didn’t know the man, they explained that they’d forbidden him to continue what he was doing. Jesus then replied that they should never hinder anyone in such activities. No one performing such miracles could ever be accused of doing evil, because whoever wasn’t against Him was really on His side. And as if to punctuate what He was saying, He made one of His most famous pronouncements: “And whoever gives you a cup of cold water in My Name, because you belong to Christ, will certainly receive his reward for doing so.”2

What, then, does this story seem to be teaching us? On the surface, it seems as though Jesus is saying that you should always be willing to lend a helping hand to those in need, as though handing out a cup of cold water to anyone is to be commended. Accordingly, the Lord has always been portrayed as being more concerned with the giver than the receiver; at least that’s what this rendition of the story would have us believe.

But remember, as we’ve discussed at length in previous essays, the apparent truth is often a prisoner of the context in which it’s presented. This is where tradition is such a hindrance to what The Bible is really trying to communicate, because Jesus doesn’t just talk about this subject in Mark’s Gospel. He also talks about it, in a much broader context, in Matthew’s Gospel.

But why, you may ask, am I making such a fuss? What’s wrong with the story the way we’ve been interpreting it all these years? Jesus is commending people who give good things to anyone in need; how can you improve a message like that? And why would you want to, anyway?

Turns out, it’s important because the message of giving in The Bible is so important. Turns out, it’s not good enough that Jesus commend somebody for some indiscriminate act, no matter how well intentioned it may seem, because with God, it’s not the act that counts but the motive.

Just think: How many times in Scripture have you seen God and Jesus condemn some apparently “holy” activity because they saw that the motive behind the action betrayed the spiritual dimension of the act? For example, people who prayed on a street corner were condemned because they didn’t care if God heard them, they just wanted everyone to see them praying; and those who gave their offerings at the Temple were condemned because they didn’t cared about mercy or justice, they were just trying to bribe God into helping them. All this to say, because proper giving is so central to the heart of God, every Christian should strive to find out what it is about a person’s giving that causes Jesus to memorialize them and their action. With that in mind, let’s look at this story in light of Matthew’s Gospel, which encompasses the entire tenth chapter.

So ends this Preview of FISH TALES (FROM THE BELLY OF THE WHALE). To read more, please click on one of the following links:

To continue with this series, read an Excerpt to see that Jesus intends to reward those who provide for those He’s commissioned to spread the Gospel.

Read the Next Preview to find out what the greatest miracle worker of all time said about God’s desire to provide signs to humanity.

Read the Next Excerpt to learn what The Bible says about what manner of creature is allowed into Heaven: human or animal.

Read the Previous Preview to learn how Protestants and Catholics can finally come together concerning a centuries-old cause for division.

Read the Previous Excerpt to find that a misconception so divisive in Church history actually has its roots in Scripture.

To read this series from the beginning, go to the First Preview to see if you can tell the difference between a genuine message from The Bible and a counterfeit version.

To hear Kent talk more about his book Fish Tales (From the Belly of the Whale), CLICK HERE.
To get a copy of Fish Tales (From the Belly of the Whale), CLICK HERE.
To hear an audio presentation of this chapter of Fish Tales, CLICK HERE.
Selected Bibliography

1. Acts 20:35

1. Mark 9:31-41