Sunday, March 16, 2014

Helping Those in Need

I know that my heart condition is extremely important if I want to live a full life in Christ—one that is meaningful and impactful.  And as He continues to perfect me and make me into His image, He brings things to my attention that need addressing in order for me to be more like Him.  He most recently brought my attitudes about giving under the microscope.

I’ve heard and read passages from Proverbs many times throughout my life, but recently while listening to Proverbs on CD, something spoke directly to me and I immediately felt convicted.  I realized that I had yet another issue of the heart, and I repented and immediately started to behave differently.  First let me give you a little backstory.

I’m not a “baller” yet, but I love to give.  I think it’s because my dad was a giver, and I admired him more than anyone else in this world, aside from Jesus.  I wanted to be just like my dad and I constantly saw him give to those in need.  So I gave too.  One of my fondest memories from childhood was riding around with my dad during the holidays and giving out cards and money to those in need.  I loved the way it felt to make someone smile.  I remember being in high school and begging my mom to donate to an organization on my behalf because I felt so passionately about the cause, but didn’t have anything to give.  I regularly give clothes to organizations that help the homeless and I give to all types of organizations that do positive work in the community.  I’m always asking the Lord to bless me indeed like He did Jabez, because my heart desires to have more than enough so that I can give, give, give.  I love it. 

What I say next may seem to contradict my love of giving.  In college, my attitudes about giving shifted.  I became more picky about who I gave to.  I gave a lot to organizations or people I knew who were in need, but I rarely gave to random people I saw on the street asking for money.  I lacked compassion for them.  I felt harassed by them.  I was convinced that if I gave, they wouldn’t use the money wisely.  Once, a guy asked if I had any change to spare and I was literally offended that a grown man would ask me for anything.  I told him that I was a struggling college student and asked him if he had any change he could spare me.  I started to think the way so many others do.  The poor were poor by choice.  They needed to get jobs.  I avoided eye contact because I didn’t want to be asked for help that I was unwilling to give.  At freeway exits, I made sure I looked busy whenever I was stopped next to someone holding a sign and asking for help.  I stopped carrying cash around for the sole purpose of being able to tell those who asked if I had any change that I honestly didn’t.  Every now and then my heart strings would be pulled and I may have given someone $10 and a CALI Newsletter…or I might have bought someone a meal in lieu of giving cash, but for the most part I behaved like Scrooge before his transformation.  I didn’t see anything wrong with my actions because although I rarely gave to panhandlers, I still gave, gave, gave.

But as I listened to Proverbs a few weeks ago, I realized the error of my ways.  A few scriptures caught my attention:

“He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.” (Proverbs 19:17)

“Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.” (Proverbs 21:13 NIV)

“The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.” (Proverbs 22:9 NIV)

“He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.” (Proverbs 28:27)

There are many other scriptures in the bible regarding how we should treat those in need—including a powerful passage in Matthew 25:35-40, which talks about how we honor God when we help those in need.

To stop carrying cash so that I didn’t have to help someone in need was wrong.  To pretend that I am struggling so much myself that I am unable to give to someone who obviously has a greater need than I do is just wrong.  To deny someone in need because I’m worried about how they will spend the dollar I give them is wrong.  What they do with the money is between them and God.  I should offer help when I can.  To avoid eye contact with a person and pretend like I don’t see their need is absolutely wrong.  These behaviors go against all that the bible teaches.

I thank God for His Holy Word and for His Spirit revealing truth to me.  I feel so much joy in my heart now that my giving is in line with His Word.  It feels so wonderful. 

I desperately want my life to be pleasing to my Father.  I want Him to call me a woman after His own heart.  I want others to see Him when they look at me.  I am called to do many things…and one of them is to help those who are in need—from a place of love.  When I consider all that God does to bless me each and every day, extending that same love to others is the least I can do to say thank You.