I’ve been reading a lot of books about helping the poor. It’s a good thing. We are commanded in Scripture to help the poor, the widows and orphans. In my reading one question keeps coming to mind repeatedly.
Who are the poor?
Now it might sound like I’m asking the same question the rich young man asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” But trust me, I’m not. I’m not looking for loopholes. I’m not looking for ways around the command. I think we first need to define the poor so we can know how to help them.
Some think the poor are only those like this:
Black skinned and in dire need of food. Yes, they are poor, the live every day in abject poverty. They go to bed hungry, they wake up hungry. They aren’t able to go to school because they don’t have food, school supplies and might be needed to carry a heavy workload at home. To many people, this is the poor people.
But what about people like this?
Could this man be poor? He obviously isn’t lacking in financial resources. He looks like he has every thing he needs. If we look only on the surface of things though.
The poor are not only those lacking in financial resources. I contend every single person alive on planet earth are in some way, shape or form poor. With that in mind, I believe our focus on helping the poor, meaning those living in poverty, is too narrow.
If we broaden our focus to see that all men are poor and work to help them in whatever their needs are we are fulfilling the command.
It is very easy to see the poor as only those lacking financial resources because it’s easy to throw a few dollars into a collection plate or give to an organization that works to eradicate the poor. It’s a little harder to actually get our hands dirty investing in someone else’s life. It’s not easy to get involved with those who are needy.
We are all needy. We all have the cure for someone else’s need. Those of us who love and serve Jesus have exactly what someone else needs. Are we sharing it? Are we helping the poor if we leave Jesus out of the equation?
I contend that we aren’t. If we merely help the poor and ignore the needs of those who don’t look poor around us, we aren’t really doing what Jesus commanded. If we help but don’t share the great love of Jesus, we aren’t doing enough.
I’m not at all saying we have to be “doing” all the time. I am saying when we realize the great gift we have, that Jesus alones meets all our needs, and we don’t share Him with others we aren’t helping. We’re keeping our lamp under a bushel basket.
I know there are some who are steeped in a legalistic gospel based on what we do. I’m not doing that. I’m saying our love for Jesus should extend to His people and the people of this world. Out of our love for Him should naturally outpour good works for Him. Not because it’s legislated from a pulpit, or the pages of a book or even this blog.
So how about if we start praying for eyes to see the needs in others? Even if they look “rich” in our eyes. Even if they don’t look like they need anything. Maybe what they just need is someone to notice them. To befriend them. To talk to them. To pray with them.
And yes, let’s not forget those who are starving for food. But so many are starving for something.