In response to yesterday’s post, a friend wrote the following:
We have a soup kitchen here in town. Bums come to it for lunch. They ask, “Is this all there is?” or “Can I have seconds?” before others have firsts. We have a food pantry. Locals use it as if it were a Grocery Store. It is for emergencies, and not to stopile lazy people’s cupboards. People driving across country stop at the church for gas and cash, always with a horrible sob story, usually smell of cigarettes or booze or both. How do you deal with these folk, John? Do you have some formula that works so you do not encourage those who do not work and who should not be fed? … What can the person in the pew do to address what you have mentioned below? … I do what I can do when I have the opportunity. What is your better approach?
This paragraph really does get down to a good point … but you have to wade through some attitude to get to it. Every Christian who has made the effort to love and help the poor has stories like those above. Every preacher can recall a dozen people who have either tried or did rip the church off, appealing to the nature of Christians who desire to be of support. Now, my friend is not trying to dismiss himself from serving … not at all. He is a kind servant. He is tired of being lied to, ripped off, and feeding the problem instead of offering a solution. I think we all are. And it’s easy to go from there to being a bit snobbish and feeling that people have just made their own bed, so now they get to lie in it. At the same time we hope God does not view our problems in that way! What good point are we attempting to reach? We must get to the WHY we are to care for the poor … and then the HOW / WHAT IF questions will find their own answer.
The answer is not complex. We care for the poor because Jesus does. We seek to alleviate their suffering and let them know they are loved because this seems to be how Jesus operated. It is not our goal to see all men rich, but to see all men with basic needs met. This isn’t always easy. Overcoming barriers between the haves and have-nots will take time, but we will do this by demonstrating true concern and compassion. If Jesus cared for the poor, downtrodden, rejected, and mistreated, then so must we. And we will if we are allowing God’s Spirit to reign in our hearts.
There are many things the “person in the pew” can never do. We can never eradicate poverty. We do not have the financial power to fill someone’s bank account. We cannot buy houses and transportation for those who have none. We cannot change the mindset of someone who only knows homelessness. We cannot give education and experience with handling money so that better decisions can be made. We can nudge others in these directions … but we cannot make it happen.
We could, and I think most do, just watch for opportunities to do small things. I believe that is a very Jesus-like approach to life. Be open to those serendipitous moments when a spare dollar could make a big difference in a stranger’s life. But I’m not sure a co-incidental benevolence is all that helpful in the overall picture.
There are many things we cannot do alone that we can do with the association and help of others. And that is where the church comes in. We are to live in community … in concert with one another. The greatest shame of division isn’t that we get our feelings hurt, but that we diminish our availability to those who need us. Not just “those” who need us, but JESUS who needs us.
In our case, a hurricane drew many of us together to do things we never thought possible. Before Katrina if you had asked me if Central would head up a functioning relief operation wherein there would be food and housing for volunteers, warehouses full of materials to distribute, homes rebuilt, and that it would be headed up by David Kilbern…I’m telling you … I would have asked you what kind of dope you were smoking. God has such plans … so majestic we cannot believe it. But if we had all decided that we would NOT serve, God would not have made us.
I don’t know who you will have to partner with to make it happen. Perhaps within the local church there are enough willing people … or maybe you’ll volunteer with Red Cross or Habitat for Humanity. It’s possible that the volunteer chaplains at a local hospital or the activities director at a nursing home are praying for someone just like you to come and help. Perhaps you can bring others with you. The local soup kitchen is filled with souls who are exhausted. Maybe you’ll run your own soup kitchen. Maybe you’ll do like my friend Al and join with a local child advocacy organization. I think this calls us to more than the occasional quarter tossed in a beggar’s cup, don’t you?
No time to serve? Too much going on in your life to be concerned for others? That is a matter for prayer.
Ultimately, if our WHY is in the right place, our HOW will be provided for us! What do you see happening in your back yard?
It seems several bloggers have preachers on their mind.
Thanks for reading!