Discover amazing reasons why we should serve those hurting and in need.
Where are you?
I know where I was. It was many years ago, and as Chaplain, I liked to go and visit the various spiritual group meetings on campus, and that day I happened to be with the Baptist Student Ministry lunch and bible study. One of the female students I knew was eating lunch and was obviously really upset. After the bible study, I spoke with her to find out what was happening.
She was married with four kids. Her husband could not find a job since he had been recently released from prison. He owed money to his previous spouse for the care of their child, as he could not work while in prison. She was white, and her husband was black, making the people in the small east Texas town less willing to help them out. The student herself was a hairdresser but could only make so much money with trying to go to school. They had no food at home. Four kids and no food at home. My heart broke for them.
I told her not to worry. I would ensure they had food, and she could come to my office the next day to pick it up. That afternoon, I went to Walmart and to Costco. Between the two stores, I bought a mountain of food. Basic staples, hygiene items, plastic, and aluminum wrap, ten pounds of hamburger meat, two whole chickens, boxes of cereal, cases of vegetables and macaroni and cheese, gallons of milk, bread, peanut butter, ramen noodles, and the list goes on.
She came to pick up everything the next day. She was embarrassed to be in need. I have never seen someone move so fast to get groceries, as if moving fast would cover her shame, but I wished I could erase it.
She came back to return my ice chest later in the week. There was joy in her voice as her house was full of food. She told me her husband said, "Have you ever seen so much food?" Four kids and no food. There was no way I could ever have given her enough.
Where are you regarding the words: duty, compassion, bounty, and generosity? These words are heavy and carry weight. For some, these words are a joy; for others, they are another thing to be checked off on a long to-do list. And some run for the hills when duty, compassion, bounty, and generosity are needed.
God wants to know where we are when it comes to serving people in need. Proverbs 19:17 states, "Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed." (ESV) In this verse, the duty of charity is discussed. Duty means a legal or moral obligation or a task required to be performed. As Christians, after giving back our first and best offerings to God, we are expected to give more to help those without.
As God's creation, it is rooted in the very fiber of who we are to take care of God's creation. When we fail to do so, our own vitality is diminished. To deny our responsibility for our fellow human beings is to deny the God who made us in the first place. When we live out our lives in the manner God expects, we live in genuine peace and joy.
Compassion and generosity are what God is after. Compassion comes from a Latin root meaning "suffer with." It is an inward state of the heart and begs the question, When you see people in need, regardless of if you have anything to give, are you moved to pity? Generosity comes from the Latin word "magnanimous." Magnanimous literally means "great soul." A great soul....who we were created to be by The Creator of all life and morality. We are not only to have compassion or pity the poor, but we are to give to the person's level of need with what is in our ability to do so.
An ancient Chinese proverb states: "If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” We all know how temporal happiness is. It is a word I actually do not use very often, as I think it is pointless to strive for happiness. Happiness is a temporary shadow of joy. I choose to strive after joy. The joy of the Lord is my strength. (Neh. 8:10)
If we back up to the beginning of this verse in Nehemiah, we find: "Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Neh. 8:10, ESV) While there is a lot going on in the context behind the verse, the focus for our time together is: joy and helping those in need are tied together. They are a unit.
When we are living out who God created us to be, we live in joy. We find peace when we find ourselves living out our God-created purposes in life. Our identity is not rooted in what we have been through or what we do for a living; our identity is who we are created to be through God and the work of Jesus Christ. Now, if your living is based on your God-given identity, then two thumbs up! However, if we are being honest, most people do not make a living based on who God says he or she is.
Out of our abundance, we are to give, and in return, God will bless our generosity. Now, why in the world would God bless us when we give stuff away? If we think about it logically, we should give money and stuff away, which should be the end. The truth is, taking care of others is intrinsically tied to our own well-being. What we put out into this world is what we get back unexpectedly. It is another mystery of God.
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. Isaiah 58:7-10 (ESV).
Proverbs 19:17 confirms our generosity will be rewarded: "Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed." (ESV) The reality is when we help those in need, we are actually giving it to the Lord, and He makes it clear we will be repaid for our deeds. This does not mean it will be a significant repayment or even financial; it involves worldly, spiritual, and eternal blessings. We thrive in all manners of our life when we support those in need.
For those of you who would like a little scientific thinking, numerous studies have found helping others: makes us feel good, creates a sense of purpose, builds community, can prolong life and health, helps us keep our lives in perspective, boosts self-esteem, and the list continues. I love it when science figures out what God knows and the Bible has been talking about for centuries. Hope you do too.
If you missed the first four blogs in this series of six, go back and read them as they build upon one another. Feel free to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, share posts, and comment as you see fit. If you have not signed up for my email list, please do so. I send out bi-monthly newsletters and behind-the-scenes information.