The Poor and the Needy

The Lord does not need us to take care of the poor, because He could easily take care of all the poor himself.   However, God created all of us to be dependent on one another—from the day of our birth.  The poor and needy are intended to be a significant part of life’s experience for every individual—so, we need the poor as much as the poor need us.   

“For ye have the poor with you always…” (Mark 14:7)

We will always be surrounded by the poor and the needy, because they provide countless opportunities for individual service, where all are invited to practice true charity and learn to develop spontaneous, sincere compassion and love for all others.  Charity requires more than merely praying for the poor and needy—it requires action.  

“Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.”  (Proverbs 21:13)

God does notice us, hear each prayer, and watch over us; but, it is usually through another person that He meets our needs and answers our prayers.  We can serve knowing we are truly instruments in God’s hands when we love and serve one another.  

Who are the poor and needy?

They are those who are in need of physical, mental, emotional or spiritual care.  They include those who
  • lack sufficient food, clothing and shelter
  • have little or no money, goods, or other means of support
  • are dependent upon charity or public support
  • lack the means to obtain the comforts of life
  • need employment
  • need medical attention
  • need education and training
  • are poor in spirit, in need spiritually or emotionally, praying that someone will rescue them with friendship and love.  
“For the poor shall never cease out of the land:  therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.”   (Deut. 15:11)  

“He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.”  (Luke 3:11)

It is not difficult to find poverty, illness, and despair in our own community.  We are surrounded by those in need of our attention, encouragement, support, comfort and kindness.  They may be neighbors, friends, acquaintances or strangers; they may be people with whom we work, those whom we see near our home, at school, at church, in the community, our nation, and throughout the entire world; and sometimes they are right within our own family or extended family.  We may have to break down any existing barriers of religious, racial, or social prejudices and expand our service to all in need.

No Man Is An Island
No man is an island, no man stands alone
Each man's joy is joy to me
Each man's grief is my own
We need one another, so I will defend
Each man as my brother
Each man as my friend.   - John Donne

Judging the Poor.  Those who mock the poor and feel glad about their calamities have need to repent.  We must never withhold charity because we feel the poor deserve their suffering, and judge the recipient unworthy of assistance.  

“Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker:  and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.”  (Proverbs 17:5)  

Help the Poor to Help Themselves

We do not want to foster idleness.  To the extent of his ability, the recipient of the service should be allowed to work for what he receives, thereby preserving his dignity.  

Help people to help themselves, learn to practice economic self-discipline, avoid debt, prepare for times of distress, distinguish between needs and wants, serve others, and live accordingly.  Assist the poor to provide for the physical, spiritual, social, and emotional well-being of themselves and their families.  

This is accomplished through caring relationships from those who are willing to share their time, talents, skills, compassion, materials, and financial means as they reach out and assist the less fortunate, the distressed, and those who are suffering.  

Those who have the means to provide employment can show the poor how to work, and give them a chance to do so; that they may earn their living as honest people.

Make Time to Serve

Sometimes what is most needed is simply and thoughtfully giving of our time.  Many of the elderly live in quiet loneliness on the sidelines of life, after years of being the center of a home and feeling very needed.  Now, they live in rooms full of furniture which feel empty, because there is no one to talk and share memories with, or to help them feel a part of the present.  

Our talents are needed, whatever they may be—our helping hands, our voice of encouragement, or our skills, all of which can answer prayers and change lives in a remarkable and wonderful way.   

“She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.”   (Proverbs 31:20)  

It is through serving and learning how to take care of each other, that we develop within us the Christ-like love and disposition necessary to qualify us to return to the charitable presence of God.                       

The giver of service will feel just as much joy and just as much reason to be thankful as the receiver of service.  Whenever we are in the right place at the right time to help others, we feel joy and satisfaction.  To have the knowledge and insight to be helpful to others, is a blessing that fills our hearts with gratitude for the countless ways God uses us to bless the lives of others.  

Those who give service should remember to thank the Lord for the meaningful experiences which have blessed both their life and the lives of those they have served.   

The receiver of service should thank those who have served them and given assistance in the spirit of love.  They should also remember to thank the Lord for answering their prayers and sending the needed help.  

“And one of (the lepers), when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.  

“And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed?  But where are the nine?  There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.”  (Luke 17:15-18)                                                                                                                     

The American poet Edwin A. Robinson described the two kinds of gratitude as “the sudden kind we feel for what we take, (and) the slower kind we feel for what we give.”    “Captain Craig,” in Captain Craig-A Book of Poems, 1902, 5 

Receivers and Givers should both cultivate a spirit of gratitude for the many things they are thankful for, because we are all blessed when we give thanks to God—
  • We feel closer to God, and our faith and trust in him is strengthened.  
  • We focus on our blessings and not on our problems.
  • We remember that all blessings come from him, even those we think we have earned by our own efforts.
  • We realize God is mindful of us, minimizing our pride, selfishness, discouragement and depression.  
  • We look for the good in others and are less likely to criticize and judge them.  
“I will bless the Lord at all times:  his praise shall continually be in my mouth…O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together…It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord…”   (Psalm 34:1-3; 92:1)