1 John 3:17 “But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?”
The desire to help people in need exists in the heart of the Christian. It is a by-product of the presence of love in a heart of a person touched personally by Christ and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately providing help isn’t a simple process of writing a check. Rev. John Lovelace recently published a list of actions that he learned through a lifetime of serving the poor and others with specific needs. I am using, amplifying or adding to some of his points to serve as a guide for myself.
1) The evaluation of a real need requires careful analysis. Not every request for assistance justifies an investment of time and money by a donor/administrator. Even though it is easy to pull a few dollars from our wallet or purse, this is not always the most helpful response.
2) Before deciding about a need, it is crucial to hear the story behind the request. Everyone, despite our best efforts, may reject a real need because of a bias or prejudice. Perhaps, the need comes from a Moslem, a person with HIV, a member of the KKK, a Mormon, a prostitute, a gypsy, a person with body odor, and the list continues; a real need remains a need regardless of the person bearing its burden. It takes time to get under appearance and profiling to see the heart, body and soul of the person in need.
3) Many needs are repetitive and need a long-term response to avoid an endless dependency on assistance from one person or another. For example, a single mother may feel driven to prostitution because the lack of education or training to earn a livable income. Such a problem requires a plan to support the family while the mother is receiving training.
4) Some needs demand immediate help. In such cases, there is no time to investigate or run the issue by a committee. The caregiver/donor must generously meet the need while being certain the recipient spends the money honestly.
5) Valid financial help seldom exceeds a Christian and their church’s ability to meet the need in one-way or another. In other words, people denied without careful thought and prayer.
6) Some people do not merit help. Some people can care for themselves or their families, but are simply prone to ask others to do their work for them. “No” is sometimes a valid response to some requests for aid.
7) Apart from minor gifts for gas and food, responsible giving requires follow-up. Lending a helping hand often involves the witness of love. This can only be achieved when the donor forms a caring relationship with the person in need. Such care often requires hours of concern and assistance.
8) Unfortunately, there are a few cases when giving is nearly unending. For example, an indigent elderly person may never be able to care for himself/herself. Only death will end the need. In such cases the caregiver must see the need as long-term and find channels to assist the person until their death.
9) It is better to error providing help to a person that actually has no need than to turn away a person with a real need.
Hebrews 13:16 “And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”