Every person has worth and should be treated with dignity.
When a person is in need, they sometimes feel like less of a person. And when they receive help, they could feel like a project instead of a person of worth.
No matter who you identify as those who are marginalized, you draw a line. Let’s think about those who have less than others, for instance. Some people think a person who has more is worth more. Few would admit that mentally, but if you do, is it reasonable to also say that a person who has less is worth less?
Sadly there are some people who are made to feel this way, even if it’s not intentional.
What God says
I once heard someone say, when people are in need, they should be satisfied with whatever they get. These were harsh words without even a sprinkle of grace. And they don’t seem to measure up to what the Bible says.
Romans 12:10 tells us we should be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Paul further adds, we should honor one another above ourselves. Honor is a beautiful word. It envelops the idea of respect and then goes further.
James 2:3-4 talks about when someone shows favor to one who has wealth compared to someone in need. James tells us when we do this we are judging and discriminating.
In Matthew 25:35-40, we read about how the King tells the story about being hungry and thirsty, and being a stranger who was invited in. And when questioned about when he was hungry, or thirsty, he responds in verse 40 that whatever was done for the least of these brothers and sisters was done for him.
Give with no strings attached
I don’t mind sharing that my family has received help a number of times, and we were extremely grateful. What I learned during those times was that the kind of help that truly made a difference was given with grace, having no expectations along with it. That is genuine giving and not just, in a sense, trading, hoping for something in return.
We’re also instructed to give as if we are giving to the Lord. But sadly, not everyone does this. A good question to ask yourself when you are donating to a cause is, “Would I be glad to receive this for my family?”
Workers at a donation site have told me that they are sometimes embarrassed at the donations that come in the door and end up tossing out half of it.
There are people who do give graciously. When my husband finished his tour of duty, friends of ours opened their home for us to stay with them till we got our own place. We gratefully accepted. But as the holidays were approaching, I got impatient. Our friends had their girls double up and they gave Mike and me a bedroom. At that time, I didn’t even have a bed for our baby. Frustrated, I said to the Lord one night, “Lord, do you know how I feel? It’s just about Christmas, and I don’t even have a place to lay my son down.”
I smile now, as the Lord tenderly told me, he did know how I felt.
Some people have less than others because of a job loss, others struggle when there is a sickness in the family. Unfortunately people make generalizations about why some struggle with money. And when we make assumptions, we need to remember we could be wrong.
When we were in the military, stationed in Germany, we attended a ministry called The Hospitality House, a place for soldiers and their families to gather. The ministry’s main purpose was to welcome anyone who came inside those doors and to love on them. They had weekly Bible studies, little excursions, and even a Bible conference twice a year. We shared meals as well as prayer requests. We laughed, we cried. We did life together.
And although there were enlisted men and their families as well officers and their families, including a colonel, there were no divisions.
The church is the body of Christ with individual members. When we engage with others we need to love on them. And if we do that, people would be rushing to get inside the doors.
Loving people. It’s what Jesus did.
How can we engage with those who have less?
- We need God’s help so we don’t make judgments: Remembering God is the one who provides for everyone will help us not to have an attitude of pride. For when we are proud, we think we know the answers, not only for us, but for others as well. Psalm 75:7 says God is the one who judges; he brings one down and exalts another. Even before a person speaks, we can tell if they are judging us. It’s not always what they say, but how they say it. When they are listening to God’s voice, their words are full of grace.
- We need to see people as those created by God: If we would ask God for wisdom before we speak to others, we would see them as God sees them. He looks at their hearts, as it says in 1 Samuel 16:7. Each person we see was created for a purpose we know nothing about. God used ordinary people to do extraordinary things, all through time. When we look at the bigger picture and the fact that we only see in part, then we can speak words of encouragement so the person holds their head up and realizes they are a work in progress—God’s work in progress, not ours. And if Almighty God created this person, he loves him/her. You never know how one word of encouragement will seep into the heart of another and grow. None of us would want anything to do with some of the great men and women in Scripture if we would have known them before God started working.
- We need to come alongside them: Often we make mistakes when we are with others. We speak more than we listen. We try to get our point across instead of finding out where they are. And pieces of paper don’t tell us that. Others don’t even tell us that. Only God who knows the minds and heart of his creations can lead and direct us. But we need to do it from a place alongside of them so they know we are on this journey with them. Speaking from above devalues them. And if we walk alongside, then if they stumble we are in a better position to reach out and help them. Jesus was the Son of God, yet he walked with his disciples, he sat with them, ate with them, and talked to them without ever making them feel like less. We need to follow his example.
- We need to pray for them: When we see someone who is struggling, we are tempted to come up with solutions for them. When nothing seems to work, we turn to prayer. Sometimes we even say, “I guess the only thing we can do is pray.” Prayer is the best thing we can do for someone. Prayer gives us access to the only one who really knows what is going on. He has the best vantage point. He knows the beginning from the end. He is the Alpha and the Omega. When we pray, we are letting others know we care for them. And if we have the opportunity to pray with them, this is the best thing. For when a person sees another take the time to bring them before God and lift them up to the Father, they feel loved. And every time the person’s name pops up in our minds, we should be bringing them before the Lord. Prayer changes things. It is acknowledgment that we are not the answer to someone’s problems, but we know the one who is. Praying for them and with them shows them the importance of communication with God. I recently reconnected with someone I knew when I was a new Christian. She told me I was the first person who taught her to pray aloud, and that was decades ago.
- We need to learn how to listen: When we acknowledge God in all our ways, as it says in Proverbs 3:6, God will direct our paths. The more we learn to listen to God, the better we become at listening to others. Far too often in my own life, I have spoken before I prayed about something. Those times have proven to be unfruitful. But when I come before God and entreat him to give me help, to lead and direct me, God astounds me. God tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9 that his thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways. His are so much higher. When we are so sure we know what should be done, we should run to the throne room first, for we could be 100% wrong. Pride will plug up our ears. When we are listening to someone share their heart and struggles, we need to give them time. It takes a while to get to the heart of the matter. But if we’re patient, the God who reads our hearts will let us know. Listening. It’s one of the most important parts of loving.
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash