A Compassionate Attitude Toward the Poor

So, I’m a part of an organization.  I give this organization my hard-earned money that I make from my fulltime job.  You wouldn’t believe what they turn around and do with it!  They donate to programs that feed the poor, homeless, and hungry.  These people have never done anything for me, and some of them haven’t even done anything for themselves.  Some of them are terrible people too.  They abuse drugs and alcohol, they take advantage of handouts, they refuse to better themselves.  But would you believe that this organization still considers them worthy of compassion and aid?  This organization doesn’t require drug tests or ask any questions yet continues to give even though there is no guarantee that their (or my) donations will be appreciated or returned.  They give all they have and then find more to give, despite the faults of those receiving.  Why do I continue to give? This organization is my church. 

Did you see that coming, or were you wondering why I wasn’t outraged at the “abuse” of my money?  Does it matter that I was talking about a church instead of a government agency?  Why?

In the age of social media, people feel freer than ever to express their opinions to a broad audience, and dissatisfaction with welfare seems to be pretty common.  I am not saying that welfare reform isn’t in order, so don’t stop reading here.  What I am saying is that I’m surprised at the people who seem so appalled that we should care for our poor because many of them are Christian.  And “churchiness” aside, is it not a kind and selfless act to care for the poor?

So here is my disclaimer paragraph.  I know the system is abused.  It is wrong for people to misuse government funds and to expect others to pay their way.  And I know it happens.  My point is that rather than calling for drug testing or the abolishment of the welfare system altogether, we should be looking for the most efficient way to help those who really need it.  I think that to be against welfare programs is wrong and unchristian. 

I cannot say that I deserve a single thing I have.  The fact that I am college educated with a job does not qualify me for more “stuff” than others.  My house, my cars, all my worldly possessions are mine by the grace of God.  I acknowledge that I am blessed beyond what I deserve (which is nothing).  So why would I make the assumption that I am more deserving of life’s richest blessings than any other of God’s creatures?  Why would I refuse to share? 

Christians who are opposed to welfare, calling it “handouts” and its recipients “free-loaders,” need to reexamine what the Bible says about caring for the poor.  If they are so insistent on a country which lives by Biblical standards, then the charity of government services (even when it’s abused) is a direct response to our call to love and serve our fellow human.  Because, let’s face it, these are people.  As lowly as we may see them at times, as much as they may try our patience or frustrate us with their unwillingness to help themselves, they are God’s creations and we are not called to judge but to love. 

Perhaps my perspective comes from my job.  I look everyday at students who are paying for their parents’ mistakes.  Mom has a drug addiction that makes her unable to afford housing.  Do those people not deserve a home until they’re back on their feet?  Another dad is in prison, so kids live with grandma who is unable to afford to feed their growing bodies.  Do these kids not deserve food?  Yes, these are the result of bad choices on someone’s part.  But did Jesus distinguish?  Did he only love people who lived in a way with which he agreed?  Does he call us to love only the self-sufficient or love based on effort?

The Bible is clear on our call to help the poor, whether it is through private charities or our attitudes toward the government’s methods.

  • “He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.” Proverbs 14:21
  • “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Proverbs 14:31
  • “He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 17:5
  • “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.” Proverbs 19:17
  • “Jesus answered, If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'” Matthew 19:21
  • “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18

Beyond Christianity, it is still essential to help the less fortunate.  The idea embodies what it means to be American.  How would we look on a global scale if we are a nation who does not help our own?  Every simple rule about how we treat one another requires that we care for the less fortunate.  Plus, isn’t an attitude of “I take care of me; you take care of you” greedy and irresponsible?  Every cliché on ideal human behavior suggests otherwise, including the Golden Rule. 

My bottom line is this:  Our welfare system is broken but necessary.  It does not become us as loving individuals to judge the many by the few.  It is our job to love without qualification.  So let’s stop being the judges and start being the givers.  Even if what we give is abused.  Isn’t the idea that our money has helped even one person enough to make it worthwhile?  Our attitudes have the power to bring people to Christ or drive people away.  Let your attitude of unconditional love and giving show someone that they are worthy despite their circumstances. 

“Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people.  A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” –Franklin D. Roosevelt

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