“Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.” – 1 Timothy 6:17-19.
Poverty and the poor. When you hear those words, a predictable series of images probably flicker through your mind: A homeless man living under an overpass in a major city. A shoeless child on the streets of Haiti. A jobless widow in Kenya. But there are people in need closer to home than we may think. When we think of these people, we rightly want to help. But how? Good intentions are not enough. We tend to think of poverty as a lack of material things like money, food, or housing. So our first instinct is to give those things to people who are poor. While that may work in the short term, we have other avenues as a church and as individuals to help the poor in the world and in our backyards.
Here are some things to consider as you think about how we as a church and as individuals can help the poor in our area. First, remember that we are all poor in some way. I’m poor too. I’m in need too. I’m broken too. The world divides people into “those who need help” and “those who offer help.” The truth is we are both. We are all “poor” in that we experience less than the fullness that God intended for us. For those people who are wealthy, poverty takes the form of materialism, workaholic tendencies, arrogance or superiority that looks down on the less fortunate’s love for them.
We need to understand that people who are physically poor are not necessarily also poor in spirit. Don’t pity poor people; view them as equals who simply have less material goods than you do. Let the poor know that not only has God not forgotten them, but Jesus Himself identifies with them. When we approach the poor with an attitude of superiority or when we treat them like projects to be fixed, we forget our own dependence on Christ’s grace.
Both the “helpers” and the “helped” are loved by God, they have dignity as people made in the image of God. They are designed for community with one another. Always respect the dignity of every person because they are extremely important and valuable to God.
- Read Zechariah 7:9-10: The Bible talks a great deal about the the poor, widow, foreigner and orphan. In what specific ways are each of these four groups at a disadvantage in society?
- What dangers do the poor, widow and orphans face if there is no one to intervene on their behalf?
- Thinking of each of these three categories of people, what are practical ways an individual or the church could possibly get involved?
- How do we respect the dignity of each of these groups? What rewards do you think you would experience from helping these people?