“But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”
John now transitions from imploring Christians to sacrifice for others to something more routine – helping another Christian in need. The standard of our love is not measured only by supreme sacrifice but also by the ordinary course of things. If God expects us to give our lives for one another, surely we could give something of our material stuff.
This verse contains the only specific ethical blemish of John’s readers in the entire letter.
But whoever has this world’s goods,
All of us possess “this world’s goods.” This includes either possessions or property. We could translate “goods” as means of living. Anyone who has any resources for the maintenance of life has something to give to others. Giving to others does not require wealth.
and sees his brother in need,
John now reminds his readers of the principle of the previous verse that believers should sacrifice for fellow Christians (Jn 3:16). Sacrifice should include meeting physical needs as well as spiritual needs. The word “sees” is more than observation but also includes the idea of contemplation of need, a continuing observation of need.
and shuts up his heart from him,
Acts 5:23 uses the Greek word for “shuts up” for a jail door securely locked. The idea here is a Christian who refuses to show compassion; he does not have a heart for someone in need. The Christian with some capacity slams the door of compassion in the face of the believer without wealth.
De 15: 7 “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother…”
The believer’s “heart” here is his seat of emotions. A believer who shuts up his heart has no empathy (Lu 1:78; 2 Co. 6:12; 7:15; Ph 1:8; 2:1; Philemon. 7,12,20). The word “heart” is literally bowels, that is, the physical organs of the intestines (Ac 1:18). The Greeks regarded the bowels as the seat of the more vivid passions. The New Testament uses this word both literally for the viscera, the inward parts, entrails, and figuratively for the seat of the emotions.
2 Co 6: 11 “O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections.”
2 Co 7: 15 “And his affections are greater for you as he remembers the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling you received him.”
Either our possessions control us or we control them.
Some Christians shut up compassion to those in need like a closed door. The believer who lives for personal comfort is not someone who loves fellow Christians.
Loving everyone in general may be an excuse for loving no one in particular. It is very easy to verbalize love or to talk love but it is another thing to give out love. Counterfeit faith, spurious faith does not give to people in need.
Ja 2:14 “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
Do your possessions own you or do you own them? If you do own them, where is the indication that you do? One clear indication is whether you serve things or people.
1 Ti 6: 7 “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
A man wrapped up in himself makes for a very small package.