I walk along the street and I am in a hurry. It’s busy; people are walking in all directions trying to get to wherever it is they are going. Then, in the distance, I see a homeless person sitting on the side of the street. At some point I will go past that homeless person. I speed up. I keep my head fixed firmly ahead. Avoid eye contact. Avoid eye contact. Avoid eye contact. I walk past the homeless person. Phew. I didn’t have to part with my money or look at them.
Does this situation sound familiar to you? To me it did. You see, I wasn’t always a follower of Christ. Homelessness was always just a background problem. Like global warming. Sure, it’s a problem, but what can one person do about it? It is even my responsibility? I think I and many other people just found it awkward. An unpleasant reality of wealth living alongside poverty. What I’ve noticed is that when it comes to charities people are quite happy to donate some change. It requires minimal effort. No talking involved. When it comes to homeless people, we dehumanise them. People are scared because the thought of being homeless is unpleasant and put blame on the homeless person without even knowing how it happened. So people walk past, which is quite sad because there is a huge difference between paying someone else to do charity for you (charities are run by people who need salaries), and doing it yourself. Now I am in no way saying don’t donate to charities, but when it comes to helping people, if the opportunity presents itself, we should take the opportunity to help people ourselves.
Why? Because it is what Jesus encouraged. We as followers of Christ have a duty to show love in this world. To set an example and to dismiss some of the disgusting stereotypes of indifference and hypocrisy that some associate with out faith because of a few bad apples. But also for ourselves, and to help our fellow human beings. Helping people is extremely rewarding. How is this supported by the scriptures?
- ‘Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink… Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.. Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink…I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me’ Matthew 25:34-40 Jesus here is saying that what we do to help the neediest in our society is as if we have helped Jesus himself.
- ‘Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor’ Proverbs 22:9
- ‘But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?’ John 3:17
- ‘But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.’ Matthew 6:3-4 This is also important, as the emphasis is on helping without making it an ego-boosting public display.
- ‘Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver’ Corinthians 9:7 We must give out of the goodness of our hearts and not unwillingly.
- ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven’ Matthew 5:16 Show people that your faith inspires you to do good, so that they too may be led to Christ.
- ‘He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is exalted in honor’ Psalm 112:9
These are just a few of the examples which encourage us to help the poor. Jesus has inspired me. I have changed my approach and view of the homeless and try to help whenever possible just by giving food or water or spare change. You can do the same. Let God inspire you!
What are your thoughts? Has Jesus empowered you to help the poor?