I’ve never had a ministry to the poor. Few of my friends are financially needy and those I work and live around are middle or upper-class families. While my finances have often been sparse, compared to most in the world I am incredibly well off. So, I wondered what it would be like to spend so many hours each week helping those at the center of ever-converging problems from which escape seems bleak and overwhelming.
I’m finding joy. It is richly rewarding to share Christ with people so destitute they have nothing to hide and therefore are brutally honest. I’m making new friends with those grateful for prayer, a listening ear and the chance to vent frustrations. I’m humbled by how good I really have it. I’m confronted by the challenge of loving those who reek and those who know what is right to do but will make the wrong choices anyway . . . I’m amazed by daily miracles, reduced to tears by unimaginable cruelties and confounded by an increasing sense of frustration. I cannot believe how many people come through our doors that have attended churches for years and have no idea how they will get into heaven let alone get help on earth.
Can you imagine Jesus telling a poor single mother, “You can only come to Me once a year for food.” I once pastored a church where we set rules regarding how much help we would give people. I’m embarrassed when I think of that now. We made rules to keep our organization from being overwhelmed by the needy. Maybe that’s the problem—we need to be overwhelmed! There’s something amazingly healthy about coming destitute to God to help the destitute. Our faith blossoms when we let go of what we cling to and let God set the agenda. Our generosity grows when our trust is in Him and not in our policy and resources.
In Acts 4 we read of believers selling land and houses and giving the proceeds to the apostles to help anyone in need. I don’t know anyone who would sell his or her land or a second house for me if I were in desperate need. The reason is that today we fix the responsibility for direness on the individual hurting instead of taking responsibility corporately to alleviate the problem. We’ve lost the sense of adventure and utter excitement the early church had in embracing new believers into their midst with a mindset to help any and all who joined them. Now we view with suspicion anyone who comes through the door looking or acting needy. We’ve become so concerned about “protecting ourselves” that to the hurting we are heartless.
Lamentations 4:3,4—Even jackals offer their breasts to nurse their young, but my dear people have become cruel like ostriches in the wilderness. The nursing infant’s tongue clings to the roof of his mouth from thirst. Little children beg for bread, but no one gives them any.
I’m not saying we must help everyone. We need the Lord’s discernment and leading. However, the Bible isclear that we have an obligation to help those who are of the household of faith. Once years ago, I tried to get my sister minimal financial help from the large church she attended. I knew the pastor on the phone from whom I was seeking assistance. Sadly, he treated me like some annoying stranger. The staff of that church made my sister feel like a second-class citizen. I think of that experience often now. The world is not stupid. How will it find the gospel attractive if we repel the unattractive? The One who became poor to make us rich should never find us heartless. Let it be said of us, “They will glorify God for your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with others through the proof provided by this service” (2 Corinthians 9:13).
God continually introduces us to people in whom we have no interest, and unless we are worshiping God the natural tendency is to be heartless toward them. We give them a quick verse of Scripture, like jabbing them with a spear, or leave them with a hurried, uncaring word of counsel before we go. A heartless Christian must be a terrible grief to our Lord.—Oswald Chambers in My Utmost For His Highest
©2006 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)