What Would Our Reaction Be?
Many of us attend congregations where members’ various needs are brought publicly before the church. At times there are prayer requests. Other times, families in crisis bring their financial burdens before the church, having nowhere else to turn for assistance.
I often feel the tug of the Holy Spirit during those moments and an ache in the pit of my stomach. These are human beings, God’s precious creation, and my need to help is compelling.
What would our reaction be if Jesus himself walked down the aisle, stood in front of His people, and proclaimed His own neediness?
Would we even know it was Him?
If we did recognize Him, would we all wonder what possibly the Son of God might need from us?
Are We Benevolent or Judgmental?
The topic of benevolence in the church is one thing, but benevolence to strangers seems to be a real hot-button issue with Christians today.
- We are inundated with homeless people at every street light and corner.
- We come face to face with some sort of cardboard sign at least once a week. If you live in a big enough city, a stranger with a need might even approach you directly.
- What to do in that split second, what to do with that uncomfortable opportunity, what to say or not to say…sometimes you only have the length of a red light to make your judgment call.
How often do we find ourselves passing judgment on someone? Have we ever said these words to ourselves?
- If that man can stand out there all day in the scorching heat, surely he can get a job.
- This is just one of those scams, all these corner people working together to swindle honest people out of their hard-earned money.
- If I give them money, they are just going to turn around and buy alcohol or drugs.
- She is wearing nice clothes and those shoes don’t look like a poor person’s shoes, so I am going to pass.
As the Bible clearly tells us, God chose individual, unique spiritual gifts to give each of us. Benevolence happens to be one of mine, and He also chose this specific gift for my father.
Learning Benevolence from my Father
I could never tell all of the many things I have seen my father do to help total strangers. However, I can tell you that his complete lack of judgment in each situation leaves me in awe and constantly striving toward that same goal.
Breakfast at Denny’s
Once, our family was eating breakfast at a local Denny’s. After we paid and were heading to the car we realized my dad was no longer behind us. We found him sitting on the curb next to a very fragrant homeless man with a bicycle. My dad talked with the man, then patted him on the back and started walking toward us. He asked us to find something to do for a few minutes because he was still a little hungry and wanted another breakfast. He then took the man inside, ordered him a huge meal, and sat with him while he ate.
Another time, near Christmas, my dad came home and asked my sister and me to gather some of our very best toys. He said that someone else could really use them. We bought a Christmas tree at a nearby tree lot, tied it to the roof of our car, and headed to a stranger’s home.
When we arrived, a young girl and a grade-school-aged boy answered the door and invited us in. The small house had nothing that looked like Christmas to my sister and me. My dad brought in the tree and some much-needed decorations as the kids’ mother came around the corner. My sister and I were startled to see that the mother’s arm was amputated just below the shoulder, but my dad hugged her and acted as if he never noticed. We put up the tree, left some of our toys, and my dad gave the mother some “secret” money to buy some things for her kids for Christmas.
Over the years, my dad helped many people.
The people and their needs were never the same–but my dad’s attitude and enthusiasm always remained constant.
I think of the very few times that my earthly father has been in need and I can promise you that on those few occasions I have moved heaven and earth to help him! Why? Because for me he is the giver, he is the need-meeter, he is the symbol of hope and love to the people he helps so when it is his turn to be in need, I run to his aid.
Helping Others as if it were Jesus
Now, let’s go back to our church service with our Lord standing front and center proclaiming His neediness.
We may think of it in hypothetical terms but according to Jesus himself it is NOT. Matthew 25 starting in verse 45 (NlV) clearly states:
And he will answer, “I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.”
I know what some of you are thinking and it’s an OLD argument. When Jesus states “brothers and sisters” we take that as only Christians and Christ-followers.
Scripture Speaks to Us All
As convenient as that might be and more comfortable for us, it simply is not true. Let’s ask Jesus what He means and HE will clear things up. Verse 44 says:
“Then they will reply, Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?”
This scripture is all encompassing and speaks to all mankind.
Just like my father did, next time you come face to face with a cardboard sign or a dirty, smelly person you would rather not help, try to see them through the goodness of Christ.
See Christ Himself in need.
Run to His aid as fast as you can!
- He stopped in a crowd and touched a sister and healed her.
- He noticed when others were hungry and fed them.
- He wiped a tear from a sister’s eye and His own when His best friend lay in a grave.
- He touched ten diseased men with healing, knowing only one would be grateful.
- He looked a humiliated, desperate, sinful sister in the eye and defended her without condemnation.
- And then He opened His arms and gave us His life.
How could we not run to meet His every need?
Putting Words into Action
I am very passionate about helping others, but it’s also a subject I work on. Keeping my heart and mind right while meeting the needs of strangers is anything but simple!
A few weeks ago I was heading to work. I noticed a woman standing at the on-ramp with a sign. I was going the opposite direction so I said to myself, “When I go home, if she is still there, I will stop and see what she needs.” Of course, my meeting ran long and she was gone. The next day I saw her again. This time a man in a suit was talking with her and handing her a card of some type.
I thought maybe that was a good sign and she might be getting some assistance. I hoped he was able to help her because I didn’t want her to have to stand out in the 100-degree heat all day.
Determining to Help
At the end of the day, my heart melted when I saw that she was still at the on-ramp. Quickly, I drove home and told my husband that I wanted us to head back over there with some food and see what we could do.
I pulled up to an old gas station and walked to where she was standing. I told her that I brought a bag of groceries in case that might help in any way.
She practically jumped into my arms, wrapping both of her arms tightly around my neck. She said that they had broken down and were just trying to get enough gas money to get back home to Colorado. I asked her where her car was and she said it was in the gas station parking lot. I told her to walk back with me and we would fill her car up.
The Ground Shifted
As we walked behind the station, the scariest van I have ever seen came into view with two equally scary-looking men inside.
We had brought our puppy with us. Worried that the puppy would overheat, I grabbed her out of the car. That’s when the ground shifted under my feet.
She turned and saw the puppy and said, “Oh! Would you please let my kids pet your puppy?” KIDS??? I said “sure” as we walked toward the van. Two boys and a little girl, heads sopping wet with sweat, squealed delightedly as the puppy licked their faces.
One of the men even started talking in a cute voice and got a couple of licks. As they were finishing up on the gas I walked back and put the puppy in the car. The lady followed me with an old, cover-less book in her hand. After giving me a third huge hug, she said the book was one of her favorite things. She had read it cover to cover many times but begged me to take it. That she was willing to part with such a treasured possession almost broke my heart!
Lesson learned for me!
It looked like just another dirty, sweaty person with a sign but underneath was a desperate mother with three children baking in an old, filthy van for three days just needing someone to see past her and see the real her, the JESUS her!
Have you ever been in a position where you had to set aside your judgments to help someone?
Be encouraged by these posts as well!
- Healthy Holiday Habits - December 7, 2017
- Jesus is Needy - October 12, 2017
- Sweep, Clean, and Fill It Up: The Principle of Crowding Out - September 6, 2017
Beautiful. May more of us listen for that whisper and live in compassion.
gives me something to think about my relationship with Him…
When you’re faced with this kind of situation it is so easy to judge, and can definitely be difficult! I’ve always tried to remember-no matter what they do with it, we do it to be obedient to God and to serve HIM, not the person.
Beautiful and convicting post! If we all had a relationship with Jesus Christ I seriously don’t think there would be homeless!
This brought me to tears. So often we do not recognize Jesus in those who are suffering or are needy. I love your fearlessness.
Sometimes it’s not those “big” moments, but the little ones when we live with compassion that we exemplify Christ’s love the most. His life’s pattern was reaching other people “along the way” — like the examples you’ve given here!!
I am a Christian mental health therapist and have been in the field for about eight years. I do my best to be nonjudgmental with all of my clients as they all have their own stories, experiences, and wounds. Your dad sounds like an amazing man by the way! Thank you for sharing your experiences! God bless!
Amen! When God makes us notice people in need, He’s basically telling us, “the need in this person can be met only by you”. He’s already placed a solution in us which needs to be unwrapped with His utmost compassion.
What a heart-warming post! You’ve given me a lot to think about, and a real desire to open my hands more readily!
Julie, Thank You for sharing your dad and your heart! I always tell people we never know what is tugging at someone else’s heartstrings. Jesus was always most at home with those with a need. This includes all of us. We can’t say we love and worship Him without loving our neighbor as ourselves. I live just outside of Washington, DC and I have learned many lessons from the homeless. They are people just like you and me. Yes, we have to be smart and not put ourselves in situations which could be dangerous, but God is our discernment and… Read more »
Thought provoking post
I have made every one of those excuses, but mostly my common excuse is either one based on fear or not having any cash on me to help. I need to pray more on this! I need to pray that God gives me both courage and an overwhelming desire to help!