the weblog of Alan Knox

How can you do for the least if you don’t know the least?

Posted by on Feb 20, 2013 in blog links, love, missional, service | 7 comments

How can you do for the least if you don’t know the least?

A couple of days ago, Jeremy at “Till He Comes” wrote a great post called “16 Ways to Build Relationships With the Poor.” (UPDATE: Thanks to Jeremy for pointing out that this post was actually written by Sam as a guest post on Jeremy’s site.)

As you can tell from the title, the point of Jeremy’s post is to help people build relationships with people in need. Why would Jeremy focus on “the least” among us? Well, Jesus did say something about God’s people (the righteous) being those who care for “the least.”

But, there’s another reason to focus on finding and building relationships with the least. Several years ago, I realized that I was living an isolated life – isolated from unbelievers and from the poor, hungry, sick, prisoners, etc. I was living in a “Christian bubble” (some call it a ghetto).

You see, as great as it is to spend time with other believers (and people who are like us), it’s just as important that we also disperse and spend time with those who are not believers (and people who are not like us). But, for Christians like me, this may be difficult to put into practice.

Because of that, examples like the ones that Jeremy gives in his post can be very beneficial. Jeremy lists these 16 ways to build relationships with the poor:

  1. Help unemployed single mothers and families find jobs.
  2. Help families find housing they can afford.
  3. Buy products and services from people you know are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Don’t look for the “cheapest” option, but for the person or business that most needs your business.
  4. Refer people you know to a business or person who needs the business.
  5. Tip generously at restaurants, especially when you know that the person who served you really needs it. Sometimes you can tip people who don’t usually receive tips, such as the guy at the car alarm shop who repaired your car alarm.
  6. Give commendations to managers of businesses for employees who helped you, especially for employees you know really need their job.
  7. When things don’t go right in your dealings with a business, do not threaten an employee with “I’m going to get you fired,” or “You will get you in a lot of trouble.” That vicious threat can terrify someone for whom that would mean losing their only source of income, and their only way to provide food, clothes, and housing for their children.
  8. Volunteer to help. This might mean helping repair someone’s house or car (so they won’t need to pay someone to do it), taking them to the doctor (so they won’t have to pay someone to drive them), or even picking up something they need (so they won’t have to pay for the gasoline to get them there).
  9. As you walk, run, or drive around town, keep an eye out for furniture and other household items set out on driveways with “Free” signs attached. Some of these items are in excellent condition and can be given to someone who needs it.
  10. Find out what your friends need and decide if you can meet any of their needs with some of the “stuff” you have in the closets, garage, and attic.
  11. After an event where a lot of food was prepared, contact certain people who are short on food and plead for their help in “taking some of this food off our hands so we won’t have to throw it away.”
  12. Invite your friends to dinner and making sure they take plates of “extra” food home with them.
  13. If you find something at a store, garage sale, or thrift shop that you know one of your friends needs, buy it and give it to them.
  14. Remember friends on their birthdays and at Christmas. This might include flowers, a gift, or inviting them for dinner, but always includes spending time with them when possible.
  15. Pick up trash on inner city streets and alleys. This improves living conditions in several ways for the people who live there, many of whom are poor. Explaining how that works would require a post of its own.
  16. Spend time with your friends, especially when you know they need someone to sit with them, listen, hug them, weep with them, and rejoice with them.

Obviously, there’s nothing more right about doing the things above than doing other things to help, serve, and love the people around you in Jesus’ name. Of course, there’s nothing wrong about doing those things in Jesus’ name either.

The great things about Jeremy’s list is that he focuses on building relationships – getting to know people – not just treating them like a project or anonymous group.

So, whatever it takes, get to know the people around you – especially those who are poor, hungry, thirsty, sick, prisoners, etc. Serve them and love them in Jesus’ name… and while you’re doing that, don’t forget the first part: get to know them. You may be surprised to find that God will use them to teach you something about himself.


7 Comments

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  1. 2-20-2013

    I do not disagree nor nullify all these good points, but I would add that we need to do these things only when the Lord Jesus – who is our Head and our life within – leads us to do so. This doesn’t mean that we should “wait for His leading” to do this, but it means that – as Watchman Nee puts it – we do things according to the level of the divine life in us. The measure to which we need to do or not do things, say or not say things, is the “life and peace” (Rom. 8:6).

    People today say all the time, “If you are a Christian, you should be helping the others, giving to the poor, and do something to change the world to a better place, because that’s what Jesus would have done!” – this is a natural and fleshly concept. The Lord Jesus apparently didn’t move a finger to remove the Roman governor from Israel; He didn’t do charity works to feed the poor in a systematic and massive way, nor did He said, “take care of the poor”. Rather, He said, “the poor you always have with you – but you don’t always have Me!” The focus is Christ. Christ is a living person in our spirit, and if He leads us to help others, we will do so – one with Him. But if He doesn’t, we say Amen and we go with what the divine life in us says.

    When the Lord Jesus will return, He will deal with ALL the social, economical, and political problems; until then, we are charged to save man and arrive at the full knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). This is His desire. And if He in us wants us to help others, we will do so. But we emphasize not helping others but ministering Christ, magnifying Christ, the building up of the Body of Christ, and the enjoyment of Christ in the church life day by day. Otherwise, we will fall into the human degradation and become politicians, doing our best to help everyone, getting ourselves into situations and places where the Lord doesn’t really lead us, and we will go against the sense of life within.

  2. 2-20-2013

    Stefan,

    I don’t think loving our neighbors is optional. If God has put poor, needy, hungry, etc. around us, then they are our neighbors. But, I’m not concerned with “taking care of the poor”… I’m concerned with loving that poor person who lives near me or hangs out on the corner near my workplace. It’s not about the nameless, faceless masses of “the poor.” It’s about getting to know and love someone who happens to be poor.

    -Alan

  3. 2-20-2013

    Jesus went to the needy, the needy came to Him. He didn’t discriminate. I personally feel that to carry out the Great Commission, we have to live the Great Commandment (which is both Godward and to those around us.The needy are all around us and we don’t really know who will respond to the Gospel or not, we simply have to operate by faith. This is what Jesus did in regards to the Ten Lepers. If your heart is open, and you look for opportunities to bless others, God will provide. If you’re looking for excuses, you will find those in abundance as well. There are literally thousands of verses in regard to helping the underpriveliged and it is to the churches great shame that they are ignnored. Jesus was not for one moment suggesting that we don’t help the underpriveliged as i’ve often heard that particular scripture used (the poor are always with you). The western church is crippled by inaction, and I personally would rather err in helping to much. After all, those who love much are forgiven much.
    regards Laurie King

  4. 2-20-2013

    Alan,

    Thanks so much for posting this! Glad to see the interaction here also.

    Of course, I cannot take credit for the post. I didn’t write it. It was a “guest post” from a reader of my blog named Sam. I reference him at the bottom of the blog post.

    Sam does this sort of stuff all the time in his community. He went out in the rain yesterday to hand out tarps to homeless people. Very cool.

    He always mentions Jesus when people ask him why he is doing this, and when they ask him what church he is part of, he just answers, “This is my church, being here with you.” This sort of comment often leads to some interesting conversations about Jesus and the church.

  5. 2-20-2013

    This reminds me of the passage in Luke 14 that’s states that we should not invite our friends, brothers, relatives, or rich people to a dinner or feast, but we should invite the poor, lame, blind, and crippled. we don’t have to wait for the Lord Jesus to lead us to do this, he is already directed us to do this.

  6. 2-20-2013

    Amen to that Dennis. How else are people to know the reality of the love of Christ, if we His professed servants refuse to love them?

  7. 2-21-2013

    Laurie,

    Yes. Interestingly, Jesus call his original disciples to follow him as he served others. Then he sent them out to do the same things he was doing (Matthew 10, Luke 9, Luke 10). I think when we follow Jesus, we’ll be serving others also.

    Jeremy,

    Thanks for correcting my attribution. I’ve updated it in the post. And, thanks for letting Sam share this post on your blog!

    Dennis,

    That’s true. He’s directed us several times to serve and love others. You know what I’ve always found interesting? Jesus said the Great Commandment was to love God and love others. When Paul, James, and others wrote about it, they narrowed it down to this: Love your neighbor as yourself. They didn’t include the “Love God” part. Interesting, huh?

    -Alan