In our western, protestant, pull yourself up by your bootstraps doctrine, why do we make it so complicated to help someone? I do believe that we have to use wisdom with regard to how we systemically help people in poverty. Clearly our methods of providing AID have not been very effective in truly helping those in poverty. If we individually help someone without using wisdom, does that misguided “help” eventually become systemic? Certainly.
So are we just not to help when someone needs help and we have what they need for fear that such action will lead to a welfare state? What about that guy on the side of the road who had been beaten by robbers? Was there much thought given by the Samaritan who helped him?
I was at an event the other day where this lady spoke about an incredible experience whereby God had blessed her with a car someone had given her. We heard her side of the story as well as the side of the story of the folks who gave her the car. I had seen a video about this gift numerous times with an organization called Generous Giving, but I had never heard the intricacies behind the story. In all honesty, though I have always enjoyed the story, this pragmatic devout follower of “When Helping Hurts” was certain that this kind of reckless giving must hurt the receiver of this gift.
I knew that the receiver of this gift, Catherine, had given her car money away. The giver of the gift, the Ochs, saw an opportunity to fill Catherine’s need as she had filled someone else’s need. Though I thought it very altruistic for Catherine to help this other person in need, there was a part of me who thought it foolish to give away the money you had been saving for a car that you really needed. I was also a little angry at the person who asked Catherine for this money.
When I met Catherine at this event, I had to ask her: “How did you know that God wanted you to give this lady $5000?” Her response was very simple but it was packed full of an ongoing relationship with God: “She needed $5000 and I had $5000.” She then began to tell me more of the details behind the decision. She did not want to give her money away. She had worked hard to save that money. She had numerous conversations with God and even delayed in hopes that someone else would fulfill the need. The longer she waited, the more she began to feel like it was a test. Where was her faith? Once she made the decision to give the gift, she felt as if she had passed the test. She had relinquished her idol and placed her faith in the provider instead of the provision. I so appreciated and was encouraged by her authenticity.
Earlier in the year, I had come across the name of a friend I had met 15 years ago on a trip to Kenya. He had worked at the Mayfield Guest House in Nairobi and he was the only guy I had remotely stayed in touch with after spending the summer in Kenya. I felt like God was prompting me to reach out to him. I looked up Mayfield online and emailed the general inbox: Is John (name changed in case he does not want others to know) still working there? How is he? Please tell him that I said hello. John responded. He had been faithfully working at Mayfield serving missionaries for 22 years. In his first email to me he asked me to pray that his son would find funding to attend college. I had been initially put off by this response: typical stereotyping of the westerner as the aid giver. However, God had been working on me gently encouraging me to rethink my position.
Was I fearful that he would misuse the money? Was I hurt that he saw me as a source of capital? Did I feel taken advantage of? I knew that I needed to love him, but how? God had clearly prompted me to reach out. Was the reason to provide for this need or simply to pray for it.
James 2:15-17 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
My friend had been faithfully and sacrificially serving for 22 years at the same place, attending the same church, just trying to raise his family well. God began to soften me to the fact that this was not reckless giving and it really was not as complicated a decision as I was making it. Once I heard the simplicity of Catherine’s story in person, I knew God was telling me that He want me to use His money to pay for college courses for my old friend’s son. Once I made the wire transfer, I knew I had done what God wanted me to do.
Giving should be like breathing. Our lungs need oxygen, so we breathe in. When other members of Christ’s body need something, we should give to them. Our body does not foolishly give oxygen to our lungs, but it gives in the proportion that our lungs need it. . . simply without fuss. We too should give to others as they need. . . simply and without fuss. The body of Christ will grow stronger with every gift and God will be glorified.
May we each purpose to do our part in 2015 to grow and strengthen the body of Christ.