By Al Behel
Thomas Carlyle once said, “The tears of the poor are the best epitaph of the dead.” Long ago King Solomon stated, “The righteous considers the cause of the poor” (Proverbs 29:7) and “He that has compassion on the poor lends to the Lord, and that which he has given He will pay to him again” (Proverbs 19:17).
One of my college professors was walking across a parking lot with another student when they were approached by a man asking for financial help. The student reached in his pocket and gave the beggar some money. The professor, a bit taken back by the unquestioning generosity of the student, asked, “Do you always do that?” The student answered affirmatively. When asked why he would give to a beggar who might misuse the funds without questioning him, the student replied, “I would rather err on the side of mercy than on the side of justice.”
Giving to the poor is like “lending” to the Lord. God will repay what the poor cannot repay. The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) outlines three possible attitudes toward those in need. First, we may actively hurt or oppress them. Second, we may actively help them. And, third, we may completely ignore them. The robbers inflicted harm upon the traveler. The Samaritan showed active compassion in helping the man. But, the priest and Levite were simply indifferent toward him.
Few of us would inflict harm on the poor or needy., but ignoring them is easy to do. But it is not the spirit of Jesus who said He had come to preach good news to the poor. Solomon commended the “virtuous” woman as one who “stretches out her hand to the poor...she extends her hands to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20).
God does not bless me so I can be rich. He blesses me so I can be a servant. Each gift is a sacred trust. The extended hand is filled with compassion for the needy. Many around us are suffering. We are the body of Christ. That means we are his eyes that see their needs, his heart that feels compassion, and his hands that serve their needs. Many of those needs are for emotional and spiritual support as well as physical.
God has no other hands, no other eyes, no other hearts, no other servants to make a difference to our world. He is counting on us to deliver a message of redemptive love and grace, and to lift hearts and lives that are struggling around us.
- Al Behel preaches for the Great Smoky Mountains Church of Christ in Pigeon Forge, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://greatsmokymountainschurchofchrist.com/