Thursday, August 23, 2012

What I Do Have

It was so easy in rural Utah to feel like I was doing all I could for the poor.

In this respect, moving back to my hometown has been hard.

There, my exposure to the poor was through the food pantry, the soup kitchen, a dear elderly friend, and the occasional panhandler on the street corner near the Walmart parking lot.  For the panhandlers, it was easy to grab a sandwich, some fruit, or something to drink when I went on an errand and drop it off before I left.  Sometimes, I would have a conversation, others I would say a few words of blessing and head on my way.  It was easy, because it didn’t happen very often.  And since it didn’t happen very often, I felt like it was manageable.

Here, it seems like I pass a panhandler, nearly, every time I get on the highway.  And these aren’t rotating faces.  They are the same ones.  And I don’t know what to do with that.  Part of me feels sorry for these people, wondering what brought them to begging on the street and what keeps them here.  Part of me feels angry that they are there, forcing me to confront the poverty I see in them, every time I pass by.  This isn’t easy.  And it certainly doesn’t seem manageable at all. 

I wonder about addictions, jobs that, surely, could be found, and about mental illness.

I wonder where their family is.

I wonder why it is that I feel guilty as I pass by with nothing to hand them. 

I can’t shake thinking about all this, because I know God loves these people. 

There is much in Scripture about how God cares for the poor.  He wrote provisions for the poor right into the Mosaic Law.  He had harsh words for Israel’s failure to consider the poor in the prophetic books.  And Jesus himself tells about separating the sheep and the goats based on how those people helped the poor or did not help the poor. 

This is important for me to get.

“Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”  Proverbs 14:31

Yet, what does it really mean to love the poor?  What does kindness to the needy look like?

I’ve been thinking about this lately.

I don’t have the answers.

I do know that last night God brought to mind a particular story in Acts.  I think it tells me a lot about what loving kindness toward the needy looks like.

“One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon.  Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.  When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money.  Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!”  So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.  When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”  Acts 3:1-10 NIV

The lame man calls out for money.  Peter and John notice him. 

Peter calls out, “Look at us!”  The man looks, expectantly waiting.  But they don’t give him money at all. 

Instead, they give what they have. 

Peter speaks, healing him in the name of Jesus, and helps the man to his feet.

Is the man sad that he didn’t get money?  Not at all.  He is overjoyed that he is no longer lame. 

He goes along trying out his new legs—walking and jumping—praising God.

And the people are filled with wonder at what happened to him.

This story encourages me, because there were those who sought help then, just as now.

People passed the same man daily as they came and went asking for help, just like I pass the panhandlers day after day.  And while panhandlers may not all be physically crippled today, something in me wonders if they are lame in a different way. 

It makes me think that while they ask for money, to last the day, what they really need is somthing else.  They need someone to take notice of them.  They need someone ot take notice of their real need.  And they need someone to speak healing over them in Jesus' name. 
I think on a deep spirit level I must know this.  I think it is this that causes the guilt as I pass by—feeling like I ignore someone with a very real need.   

Only, I never realized before that it isn’t what I don’t have to give that is important.  It is what I do have that is important. 

So, I may forget my cold bottle of water in the refrigerator; and I may forget to bring the food packs along when I head down to the Banks, when a Red’s game is happening.  But, I still have something to offer.  I can listen and I can speak healing in Jesus name.

Jesus said:

“Very truly I tell you, all who have faith in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” John 14:12-14 TNIV

Do I believe Jesus when he says this? 

He healed people—lame ones, people with illnesses of all sorts--physical, spiritual, emotional.  

He fed people, thousands of them from just a little.

I’ve heard of miracles happening like this today.  I believe it happens.

Do I believe He can do this through His Holy Spirit that lives in me?

Because if I do…

It seems to me, by noticing the real cry of someone’s heart and meeting their real present need, it will be doing the most loving thing of all.  It will usher them into the presence of a loving God, the one who can truly meet all their needs.


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we seek to honor God by being kind to the poor and needy.  May He give us eyes to see the real needs whether physical, relational, emotional, or spiritual.  Jesus, may we trust that as we give what we have—You—that You will heal and make them whole.

Jessica :)

...reposted from the archives

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