Who hasn’t seen them? The pan handlers, the homeless, the lines at the food pantries, the poor among us. I struggle to determine what my responsibility as a Christian is to help them. Haven’t their own decisions brought them to this place? Aren’t many of them addicts? I can’t fix their mental health issues. Don’t we have social service programs that will shelter and provide for them? I know that God wants us to help them, but what is helpful really?
I came across this chapter in my daily readings. It at first says there will never be any poor. But that statement is attached to an if. If only you…. Yep that is certainly where that train derails. And God so quickly acknowledges our inability to strictly obey the voice of the LORD that in just a few more verses He says if one becomes poor….followed by there will never cease to be poor in the land. Jesus restates this in the New Testament. We will always have poor among us.
But there will be no poor among you; for the LORD will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess—if only you will strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today. For the LORD your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you. (Deuteronomy 15:4-6 ESV)
“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. (Deuteronomy 15:7-8 ESV)
For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ (Deuteronomy 15:11 ESV)
So what is a Christian to do? Seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance on a case by case basis. Be ready to be generous when led by God’s Spirit. Volunteer in ministries that support the poor – shelters, food pantries, places that serve free meals, etc. Support public funding for mental health care. Pray for them. Donate the stuff in your house that you aren’t using. Sell your things and give to the poor. Support children through Christian programming that reaches around the globe. There is much we can do.
We must start with a heart of compassion that comes from following Jesus. Jesus reached out to the hurting and the marginalized. He fed the hungry and healed the broken. He called sin, sin and refused to leave anyone in their sin. We must point those in need to their healer and provider – Jesus Christ.
The deepest needs of the poor are not material things, they are validation, having a voice, telling their story, being heard. Don’t just volunteer to “do a good thing”. Get to know the stories of those you are serving. Know their hearts, their pain, and their circumstances. We may not be able to change their circumstances, but we can certainly let them know that someone cares and someone is praying on their behalf. We can offer them hope through Jesus Christ and invite them to our churches and Bible studies.
Beloved we are to be the salt and light of this world. Shine your light so that others may see it and give glory to God in heaven. Open your eyes and your heart to the poor. Point them to Jesus. Be encouraged. Press on!