What’s the best way to help the poor?
The problem of the world's poor can often seem overwhelming. Here are some tips to get started.
If you’re a Christian, you can’t help but read the Bible and be overwhelmed by God’s concern for the poor, weak and marginalized in society.Skip to next paragraph
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He tells us to be concerned for the widow and the orphan. Jesus himself said in Matthew 25 that, “As you did to one of the least of these, you did to me” meaning that if we gave food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty and clothes to the naked, it’s as if we did it to Jesus!
There are over 2,100 verses that describe God’s love and heart for the poor, weak and infirmed.
As Christians, I don’t think any one of us would deny that we should help the poor – and yet, we oftentimes don’t have a heart for the poor, we don’t care like we should that there are many without proper food, shelter or healthcare.
Why is it that God has such a heart for the disenfranchised and we don’t?
Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of us who are doing some great things to help, but what’s the best way to help the poor?
I write this as someone asking these very questions to myself and trying to break through some stereotypes that I have regarding the poor.
For example, should you give money to a homeless person? Should you give money to someone in need only if they deserve the money? Should you provide food, clothing and shelter with strings attached? Should we just give money to organizations and let them handle everything?
My goal with this post is to get us thinking beyond ourselves to try to stir in our hearts (and my heart) a deep love and passion for loving our neighbors as ourselves.
So let’s take a look at a few categories that we may fall in to when we approach helping the poor.
Help Those Who Deserve to Be Helped
Oftentimes, we take an approach to helping the poor that says, “you got yourself into this mess, you need to get yourself out – and then I’ll help you”
In other words, you don’t deserve to be helped because you’ve made some bad choices, or you have dependency problems, therefore I won’t help you until you first help yourself.
Or, this camp will also say, “I’ll only help when things get really, really bad because I want you to suffer the consequences of your poor decisions”
So, essentially, they view the poor as ones who have brought their poverty upon themselves – and only until they prove themselves worthy, or if they are destitute enough, then they can some help.
Here’s the problem with this category – if we are to love our neighbors as ourselves we would surely help ourselves long before we are destitute, and we’d surely help ourselves work through our bad choices long before it gets too bad.
We withhold mercy because we feel the poor needs to prove themselves! What if God gave His mercy that way?
We’d all be in big trouble.
Help Whether They Deserve It or Not
This camp can be just the opposite. They give to the poor no matter what – and they keep giving, sometimes to the same people, and the poor makes no progress.
This camp is only concerned about providing mercy, which is great – but at some point if the poor is not willing to help themselves and are only looking for handouts, then we become an enabler to their problems.