Best of Daily Reflections: The Best Way to Bless the Poor
“Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor.”
They sat under a tree, 100 children or more—sharing a few pencils and scraps of paper, determined to learn.
Poor children? Poor they were, indeed.
I watched them from afar, riveted during a PBS program on civil war victims in south Sudan—marveling at the children’s hunger. And not just for food. These amazing children, despite living in poverty and enduring bomb attacks by Muslim adversaries in north Sudan, longed most to learn.
The rich and the poor have this is common, says the writer of Proverbs. “The Lord is the maker of them all” (Prov. 22:2).
Sadly, however, our tendency may be to see the poor as “different”—or their problems too difficult to tackle—or the poor themselves to be to blame for their poverty.
How, instead, can we generously and effectively aid the poor? Especially since the poor will always be with us (Matt. 26:11 and Mark 14:7)?
Of course, we look to Jesus. To the relational. To the “utterly personal,” as Mark Galli of Christianity Today has written so saliently about the poor.
It seems smarter, instead, to dive into our helping—launching another program, convening a new meeting, staging a bigger protest, offering a hand up for a hand out.
For Jesus, however, helping the poor started with simply talking to the poor. With asking a poor person a question.
“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked the blind beggar Bartimaeus.
Notably, of course, Bartimaeus didn’t reply with a request for money, new clothes, or a business opportunity.
“Teacher, I want to see,” the poor blind man pleaded.
Jesus’ reply? Then go. Follow me.
The Lord issues the same invitation to us—just as he did to the woman at the well, the rich young lawyer, Nicodemus, the ten lepers, and his own disciples. Christ, above all, understands our deprivation, whether spiritual or material, is resolved by our obedience to him, and also by our connection to each other.
With extraordinary empowerment, Jesus still teaches the rich the best way to bless the poor is first to talk to the poor.
The New York Times suggested similar advice in a recent op-ed piece by Professor David L. Kirp, a public policy scholar, who posed the question What Do the Poor Need? Try Asking Them.
To improve poor neighborhoods, wrote Kipp, “The people who live there must have a hand in deciding their own fate.”
That view helped Utah cut its homeless rate, and save millions, by giving homes to the homeless. In Haiti and Africa, the Afya (meaning “health” in KiSwahali) Foundation saves lives by including rain boots in birth-kit donations for midwives—after learning the women waded across mosquito-infested swamps to deliver babies in rural places. Now their feet are protected.
Danielle Butin, who started Afya after getting laid off from her position as an executive at a health care company, knew first-hand that extraordinary amounts of new health supplies—bandages, catheters, syringes, ointments—plus like-new castoffs (walkers, crutches, hospital beds) were regularly discarded by U. S. hospitals.
She now links the castoffs to the needy. But first, she asks what they need. It’s one powerful way to love the least, near or far. May God help us all to love so well.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Are you generous? If you encountered a poor person today, what would you say? What implications or expectations come with asking another person a question? Poor people may need bread, but what else?
PRAYER: We’re all hungry, Heavenly Father, for the Bread of Life who is Christ. Fill us to overflowing so that, as we listen, we can generously share with the poor in need and in spirit. Amen.
A good name is more desirable than great riches;
to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
Rich and poor have this in common:
The Lord is the Maker of them all.
Whoever sows injustice reaps calamity,
and the rod they wield in fury will be broken.
The generous will themselves be blessed,
for they share their food with the poor.
Do not exploit the poor because they are poor
and do not crush the needy in court,
for the Lord will take up their case
and will exact life for life.
Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23