Daily Devotion by Stan Brown
I John 3:17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?
We do not often face the choice of actually dying for one another so John gives this illustration to make his argument more practical. He does this with an interesting play on two Greek words that are usually translated life. He uses the Greek word “psyche” in verse sixteen (lay down our lives for the brethren). In this verse he uses the Greek word “bios” “But whoever has this world’s goods”. The latter phrase could then be translated But whoever has this world’s life or perhaps But whoever has the things that sustain life in this world. John started in verse sixteen with the example of Christ literally laying down His life for us just as Jesus declared in John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life (psyche) for the sheep. He then tells us that we need to be willing to lay down our lives for one another. In effect, he is saying ‘It may be easy to declare that you are willing to give your life “psyche” for one another since it is not often that that occurs but you do possess a life “bios” (life sustaining goods) that you can give right now. It is often easier to express a willingness to die for one another than to actually offer aid in a time of need.
There are three pieces to this that John expresses here. First, he speaks to the believer who has the needed resources to provide for a fellow believer. He does not ask us to give that which we do not possess. My wife is better at recognizing the fact that we do possess the resources while I am thinking that we may need this five years from now. She knows God will provide. Second, he speaks to the believer who recognizes that a fellow believer has a need. Maybe we need a nudge from the Holy Spirit but the recognition is there. I must say that my wife is also better at recognizing needs than I am. Third, he brings the accusation as he says; you have the resources; you recognize the need; but you fail to respond. He uses the elucidating phrase shuts up his heart to express this. Hodges suggests that it might be translated locks up his sympathies. The KJV translates it, possibly more literally but certainly more vividly as shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him.
John concludes by asking the question “How in the world can you possibly claim that God’s love is active in your life (psyche) if you act like this toward each other? Jesus gave his life “psyche” for you and you refuse to even give a slice of bread (perhaps slice of life) “bios” to your fellow believer.”
If we claim that the love of God and eternal life are abiding in us then we must open up our hearts to the needs of one another. (I almost said in the fashion of the KJV ‘unclog our bowels of compassion’ but I thought that might be a little too vivid.) When we fail to demonstrate God’s love in this fashion, we remain saved, but are obstructing the flow of God’s love through us. I am beginning to get the impression that John believes loving each other is important.