Practical Application of the Word of God
When our brothers and sisters within the body of Christ are in genuine need, through no fault of their own and in spite of every effort they are making to not be in need, we have an obligation to help them if we’re able. Some needs are beyond our ability to fill completely, but we should proactively do what we can as we can.
Too often, though, we as Christians are guilty of intentional avoidance, disconnected ignorance, or disinterested forgetfulness.
This is where society has rubbed off on us and we have become deaf, dumb, and blind to anything that’s not about us. In most cases, we can hear, we can see, and yet we don’t hear and we don’t see. It simply doesn’t register with us because we’re so engrossed in getting what’s ours and living a great life that we simply block out anything that doesn’t get us toward that goal.
In the rare cases that we try to hear to listen and see to let it register, we often lack the empathy and experience to really comprehend and respond appropriately to what we are hearing and seeing. We demonstrate that through making ignorant and clueless remarks right after we’ve nodded our heads and indicated that we get what we’re hearing and seeing.
This is not intentional, but it adds to the hopelessness of someone in genuine need, because it seems that they’re truly and literally all alone in the world with not another living human being who gets it. This is what disconnected ignorance looks like.
Here’s what we often don’t grasp about a person in genuine need, through no fault of their own and in spite of every effort on their part not to be in need. These people don’t want handouts. They’re not looking to sponge off of anyone. They are doing everything in their power to try not to be in need and, for whatever reasons, every door in heaven and on earth is locked and shut tight against them.
Most of us just put our heads down and consciously avoid these people. “If I don’t see it, then it’s not my problem.” The third part of Matthew 25 talks about this approach. And, unfortunately, this seems to be the predominant approach among Christians.
The rarest response we Christians have to genuine need is disinterested forgetfulness. This looks like the following. Someone tells us about a need. We jump up and promise to help. Then we forget as soon as we promised because something else came along and was more important.
The need just blipped on and off our radars for a split second and then it disappeared forever from our view. Meanwhile, if we’ve promised to meet a need and we don’t do it, the person in need is still in need, but also dealing with yet another failure, another door slammed shut, and another disappointment.
Of all these responses, this is probably the most devastating because there was hope, a light at the end of the tunnel, an expectation of change for the better. And it all ended up being an illusion, a lie, an empty promise that meant nothing. It’s easier to have no hope than false hope.
People in need will often find that every once in a while someone will hand them cash (not a lot) as a gesture more than anything. While the gesture is appreciated, it doesn’t really solve the problem.
And it is very demoralizing and kills the dignity of the person in need because it doesn’t fix anything, immediate or otherwise, because the needs are bigger.
The person in need gets put into a situation of anxiety with these kinds of dribs and drabs of help. They are grateful for the gesture, but they also wrestle with the despair of knowing that it won’t change the lack and the need, and it’s a spiritual quandry that can really test the person in need.
My challenge to each of us is to get rid of the conscious avoidance, the disconnected ignorance, and the disinterested forgetfulness.
Be mindful of your words and responses in the face of those needs.
If you say you’re going to help with the need, then follow through.
I also want to talk about real ways to help people who are in genuine need and who are doing everything they can think of to not be in need in addition to continually beseeching God for help, intervention, guidance.
People who are in genuine need – and I’m not talking about the perpetual freeloaders and moochers that we all have seen and know about (these are not those and that’s one of the real struggles that people in genuine need deal with) – are trying to help themselves.
Many of them, in addition to a modern grueling and going-through-the-wringer-over-and-over job-hunting process that, quite frankly, a person who has not recently or is not going through simply does not and cannot comprehend, have tried to create revenue streams to support themselves.
In other words, they are not sitting around and doing nothing. These revenue streams are often the product of their creative skills and include things like crafting (jewelry, sewing, knitting, crocheting, woodworking, etc.), baking or confection-making, or self-publishing books. They put these items up for sale at a minimal price to try to create a revenue stream and provide value for purchasers.
In other words, it’s a fair exchange of giving something of value for a price, or earning what they receive in terms of money.
Most of the venues for these revenue streams keep most of what a purchaser pays for an item (for example, if you pay $10 for a printed book on Amazon, the author gets less than $2 of that money – authors generally don’t make anything on Kindle sales).
However, if the volume of sales is steady and adequate, then enough can be earned by the person in need to get by without having to depend on charity.
So in this is a very practical way to help someone in genuine need far more than handing them a $10 or $20 dollar bill every now and then.
We can buy just one of their items (most are less than $10) once a quarter. We can leave a review for the item (most venues promote the items based on the number of reviews – the higher the number, the more promotion) we purchased.
Also, instead of us using social media to share jokes and generally waste time, we should use it to help people with a genuine need.
Use social media (if we have several social media accounts, we do this on each one of them) to ask, let’s say 25 people, to also buy the item, leave a review, and ask them to each ask 25 people to buy the item, leave a review, and so on.
This doesn’t take any time (most of us are there all the time anyway) and it can really address a need far better than a few people sporadically handing a small sum of money to the person in need.
It also preserves the dignity of the person in need. They are not just taking handouts (if we haven’t been in this position, there is almost nothing more uncomfortable and demoralizing than being the recipient of something we didn’t earn or work for – it adds to the pain in ways that we probably don’t even realize). Instead they are providing something of value that they worked very hard on and they are earning an income from that.
I know this would go a long way in helping people in genuine need, because over time, if all their efforts to generate income through every way they can imagine, while they’re looking for a regular job and income, fail, eventually they get broken, in spirit, in soul, and in mind.
They don’t quit, but they approach everything with the idea that they’re a failure, they’re not good enough, and even though they’re going to keeping putting one foot in front of the other, it’s a waste of time. They believe that they are a waste of time.
If we haven’t been there, we can’t possibly relate to or comprehend the cumulative effect this has on the heart, soul, and mind of a person who’s going through it. Despair becomes a constant companion and darkness overtakes any remote possibility of light.
But each of us can do something about it. In a very small gesture (if we’re working, then each of us has $10 somewhere to spare – one less Starbucks coffee, one less fast-food lunch, one less of something that we don’t need and don’t have to have, but that we need to be conscious of and willing to forgo for someone else’s benefit) and by using social media for a worthy purpose, we can move mountains for a person in genuine need.
The question, then, is will we? Do we care? Are we willing? Will we nod our heads and say “good idea!” and go on and never commit to acting on it? And continuing to act on it until the person in need is no longer in need (which means we have to be engaged with the person in need)?
Or will our exchange with Jesus Christ at His return be like this: