What St. Paul is writing about here is possibility. “If”, he says, “If there is any support in Christ.” Of course he means that there is, but he is drawing the attention of his readers to that fact. Our natural tendency is toward selfishness and being conceited. Our natural tendency is toward regarding ourselves as the most important. St. Paul is very gently asking, “But what if?” What if we followed the teachings of Jesus? The world would be a better place if it were not possible to be poor, crippled, lame, or blind without being invited to a banquet. Those in need would have trouble keeping track of all their invitations.
The problem, at least from the selfish perspective of fallen human beings, is that even if we embraced this idealism of actually doing what Jesus says, others probably will not. We will do all the good, but others will just take advantage of us. And there is a truth to this cynicism. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Those who do not work should not eat.” But how can we dismiss the teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as simplistic idealism? We admit by faith in him that he is God and therefore greater than us in every way. Jesus was always right.
The mistake is to take his idealistic teachings and apply them to the world as if he had never also taught about the world to come. As he says today, “You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” He is advocating a sort of selfish generosity that should speak to us selfish, fallen human beings. He does not suggest feeding the needy because they need to be fed, but because their inability to repay us leaves God in our debt, and that is an amazing place to be.
It is like when the son of a very wealthy man travels around running up debts in various places, causing damage, and everyone is glad to have him take advantage of them because they know that his father will pay the bill and add a little something on top for the trouble. If we follow Jesus’ teachings and end up poor, beaten, insulted, or even dead because of them, we should smile knowing the repayment that we have coming. Every single person who takes advantage of us has a Father in heaven who is going to make it up to us and more.