Article by Shisia Were, CBC Nakuru
After the fall of man into sin at the beginning of time, life on this earth was guaranteed to be difficult for all. Because of man’s sin, God cursed the earth. He subjected it to futility, but in hope (Romans 8:20). Only God can do that – but that’s a whole different story for another day. This curse literally means that illness, disease, poverty and all manner of abnormalities will always be our reality until God completes his remaking of creation in and through Christ. What implication does this reality carry for us believers? What attitude should we have about those less fortunate around us?
It goes without saying that the poor are more exposed to the brunt of life’s struggles such as hunger and diseases. Poverty tends to increase suffering. Now, we are not saying that the rich do not get cancer or other deadly diseases like HIV/Aids or even Corona, and we are not saying they always have the best life on this earth. But we are distinguishing the facts that the poor are more ravaged and die more often from curable diseases than the rich. The rich have the means to get good healthcare and to provide for their arising needs. The poor do not. If you are poor, this affects what you eat, how often you eat and whether you are able to stay healthy. For the poor, when it rains, it pours. Those are the plain facts.
A gospel-born care
Now, there are many forms of poverty and disabilities, and we cannot get into all of them in one article. But we know that the Christian response should always be the same in every case: Practical gospel-born care. And whether those affected around us are going to suffer for the short term or long term, God clearly indicates in His word that the poor should be a priority for believers – especially those who are also of like faith (Galatians 6:10). Jesus said that we will always have the poor among us. He was echoing God the Father in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 15:11). Poverty and the suffering of the less fortunate will not go away until God reboots this old groaning earth. And believers are challenged by God to dig in!
Helping the poor and needy is not easy work. It is a demanding work. It can become overwhelming. The needs seem endless yet the resources are limited and they always seem to run out almost immediately after you receive them. It’s a vicious cycle of getting and giving and seemingly getting nowhere. Of course there are exceptions and some charities end up really taking off and many in the project are snatched from debilitating poverty and they end up happier than before and ride into the sunset less poor. That is the minority. For the most part, many cases of helping the poor and needy never ends up this way. Many times we get trapped in an endless cycle with the poor we are trying to help. Many times we get to the end of our ropes and we choose to cut ourselves loose and exit the scene before we become bankrupt or lose our minds!
Poverty is complex. There is no quick and easy way of eliminating it. The UN and many Aid Agencies have billions and billions of stories in wasted dollars to talk about. Every Christian organization, church or individual can relate countless tales of how their faith was shaken and their hearts broken as they worked towards helping the less fortunate without much success. What do we do? Do we cower? Do we give it up? Should we only let those who are ‘experts’ do it? There are many charities and individuals who have dedicated their whole lives to not only study poverty but to seek formulas of how to combat it. So should the rest of us take a backseat and watch the pros go at it? The answer is a loud and deafening NO! God wants us to care and help them – continuously!
God calls all believers to have a burden for those around us who are suffering. The Old Testament is replete with laws and commands by God Himself about what the Israelites were to do with the less fortunate among them. From leaving chunks of their harvests for the poor to pick (Boaz in the book of Ruth is the most heart-throbbing example), to releasing slaves and letting them go scot-free with a generous send off with some of your property after 7 years of service, to the mass release of former slaves in the year of Jubilee every 50th year (See the book of Deuteronomy). There are plenty of laws on how to care for orphans and widows – both in the Old and the New Testaments. The bottom line is that God cares for the poor constantly – and so should we!
Jesus Himself spent most of His time and resources in helping the poor. Teaching them, healing them, feeding them. He even had a ministry kitty for helping the poor – which Judas Iscariot also often helped himself out of (John 12:6)! Our Lord and Savior is our perfect example. We should never cease in well doing – no matter the challenges we face (Galatians 6:9)
Blessings of generosity
There are hidden blessings in working with the poor. God uses the hard situations to sanctify us and to turn our trust only to Him. When we come to the end of our means, God helps us show those we are trying to help that we ourselves are not their messiahs. That only God can help them and even rescue them even from the greatest poverty of all – sin! All humanity is bankrupt of holiness. That is the greatest poverty of all. As we struggle to help the poor among us, we are granted gospel opportunities to share the really good news of eternal wealth. (Matthew 13:44)
Lastly, another blessing of working with the poor is this, the poor tend to be richer in faith than the wealthy (James 2:5). They have no resources of their own – so they tend to trust God more. The rich on the other hand are blinded by their wealth (Matthew 19:24). God also seems to choose his Saints mostly from the rejects of society (1 Corinthians 1:26).
So dear believer, you can never be too far from the heart of God when you care for the so called ‘scum of the earth.’ It will be hard, no, it will be near impossible, and you may never receive any acknowledgement or reward on this side of heaven. But know one thing, God sees, and God records in His books. God will remember and God will reward on that day (Matthew 25:38-40). So take heart Saint and continue to serve the needy – especially those who are the poorest, the most despised and forgotten of the world. They too have been fashioned and made in the image of God!
May God grant the grace to do this all the more. Amen!