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:
- Help unemployed single mothers and families find jobs.
- Help families find housing they can afford.
- 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.
- Refer people you know to a business or person who needs the business.
- 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.
- Give commendations to managers of businesses for employees who helped you, especially for employees you know really need their job.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- Invite your friends to dinner and making sure they take plates of “extra” food home with them.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.