Dwight Schrute tweeted this the other day:
December is a good time of year for Christians to do what they were meant to do - love those in need.
It's supposed to be our main gig. Apparently, it was St. Nick's main gig. He was a real guy who really did give expensive gifts to poor kids. However, some outside the church, including Rainn Wilson, think we haven't even shown up for the gig.
I assume his tweet was an attempt at characterizing Christians who voted a certain way, but I'd say it's, at the very least, a stretch.
Christians have been extremely significant donors of health care services to the poor throughout history. If you search you'll find many of the non-profits serving the sick and needy across the world today are, or started as Christian organizations.
But like I said, this isn't how we're perceived right now. Part of this is simply because people forget our Christian kindness. A few months ago, I saw someone that I personally fed and drove to a church homeless shelter post something on Facebook about how the church should be taxed just like any greedy business on Wall Street. I'll be honest; that hurt a little bit. Did he forget how the church had stepped in and gave to him when he was in need?
I looked into this. Many are saying the church should be taxed. One meme I saw argued that since Joel Osteen has a massive house all churches must be raking in fortunes that could be taxed and used to help the poor. One mansion is causing people to overlook the hundreds of churches that are closing each year due to lack of funds, many of which help the poor until their last day in operation.
Whether it's forgetfulness, politics, or Joel Osteen's house, our light isn't shining as bright as it ought. We must step up our game for yet another generation and preach the gospel to the poor. Here's how:
1. Have Someone's Back
You don't have to start with someone who is destitute, just start with someone who needs something you have.
One Sunday night during our testimony service a woman mentioned that her husband had a bunch of doctors appointments coming up. This great couple has been very blessed. They have a lovely home, the husband has plenty of work especially for his age, and they have cooked some great southern food for us. But at the time, they didn't have a car.
Another gentleman in our church offered to give them rides to and from the doctor whenever they needed it. For the next couple of months, he picked them up and took them home from the doctor almost once a week. That's having someone's back. And, should we get used to a lifestyle of this kind of friendship, we will have the back of the poor as well.
Just the other day, a homeless man came to our church. He told us he was embarrassed to come in because he knew he smelt bad (his words). We assured him that we loved him no matter what, prayed over him, and went with him to get a bite to eat. We were also able to get him a jacket for the colder nights that are about to roll in.
2. Help Someone Redeem a Past Tragedy
Here's a question, when it comes to poverty is there something bigger at play than money? The answer is yes. Poverty has much more to do with hopelessness than it does cashlessness.
Take for example a woman who cannot conceive. She and her husband may both have great jobs, but on the ride home from the doctor's office that doesn't matter. There is hopelessness at that moment, and thus they feel poor. They need time, they need someone to simply be there, and, eventually, they need help seeing their difficulty as a chance to glorify God and love others. If not addressed with redemption, tragedy produces ruin.
Through tragedy even prosperous people can run into financial poverty. I met a guy the other day who drank himself from an IT department to a street corner. He was drinking in response to his tragedy. The tragedy had ended up ruining him because redemption was not presented as an option.
I remember a time where I felt poor in my struggle with anxiety. A lot of people helped me out. I received love. Now, I look forward to helping people with anxiety. I can't figure out why I've had such battles with anxiety, but I know now that there is redemption. It has given me a chance to care for others rather than just myself.
Show others love in response to their tragedy. Then, gently, patiently help them see the bridges of love their suffering has built.
3. Lead Someone to a Bright Future
Have you ever seen someone hurting themselves and wonder why don't they just stop?
One of the reasons some continually stroll down paths of destruction is because they don't see a bright future. They think, "If today is bad, tomorrow will be bad. And if tomorrow is going to be bad I might as well kill some of the pain today."
This thought process is dangerous because it can easily grow (i.e. if this week was bad, next week will be too or even next year). Going further, we see, at times, that if someone's parents were poor, they might feel that they'll never have it better than their parents (if their life was bad, mine will be, so I might as well spend my life killing pain). There is no end to the cycle unless we show people the bright future we all have in Christ.
I'm not talking about the prosperity gospel. This isn't, "believe it and you will receive it." I'm not talking so much about money, but consequences. Following Jesus means better consequences. Whereas drinking pain away destroys the body, praying through pain builds the soul. Whereas drug use threatens imprisonment, sobriety promises freedom. Where stealing tempts us to defraud our neighbor, thankfulness prompts us to love our neighbor and just maybe they'll have something to share with us.
Better consequences add up and make a better future. Even when we suffer while following Jesus, it's better than suffering for the enemy because our conscience is clear. As Christians, we know this. How do we get others to know this? Celebration.
Do you realize how many people are never, ever celebrated? Maybe yelling at people who won't get a job, or won't stop doing drugs isn't the answer. Maybe celebrating their wins is the answer. Who celebrates our wins more than Jesus? Angels throw a party every time one of our poor souls find repentance! Through celebration, we show each other again and again that following Jesus is a great joy and sin is a great pain. Ask yourself this question, "Who do I celebrate?"
This Christmas season, "let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven." There are some who may never see us as generous, but let's make sure that's not our fault.
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lesterpubliclibrary