I only fight the battles that I know I can’t lose
I only give you things that I know I can’t use
I only show compassion when there’s nothing real at stake
I only share the parts of me I know you cannot break
This is not living the life He died to give
This is not allowing love to conquer all our fears
This is not the way we find the answers or the truth
This is not what He had in mind and the proof is in our fruit.
~R. Benston, Winnable Fights (c) 2015~
It’s a shame we don’t do what we say. Many of us claim to be Christians. We show up to church on Sunday, we volunteer our time at food pantries or soup kitchens, we give away our clothes, our canned goods or any other things we have lying around that are basically in our way. We sit in our small groups and Bible study classes and we pat each other on the back for sharing the same understanding of what we’ve read together. It’s great, really. Such a cozy club to be a part of and of course, we’re allowed to claim it as a noble pursuit because it really is open to anyone who has the courage to approach the group and try to figure out our rituals and our “Christian-ese.” It’s even better if this gathering we do leads to good networking for our businesses or other pursuits. Any way to bring a little more visibility to what we’re doing. There’s nothing wrong with that…is there?
Of course there is. Here’s what’s wrong with it. Today, I watched what I believe was a pregnant girl walk from one side of a store to another, holding her belly as though she were experiencing terrible pain. I stood there and watched from a distance of about twenty feet as she moved slowly across the room. I watched a few people stare at her and walk away. I watched and had a conversation with myself about whether or not I should walk over to her and see if she was okay. I’ve experienced miscarriages (five to be exact) and I know that it is not only physically painful, but emotionally devastating. You feel very alone as it is happening and you have absolutely no control over what your body is doing to your unborn child. It’s terrible. But instead of going over to the girl and checking on her, I decided to do my shopping and then check on her if she was still sitting there in pain after I got my snacks. No need to waste my time if she was well enough to wait fifteen minutes. What kind of mentality is that? Where does this come from? I’m a person who hates to see others suffer. I’m a person who wants to help others…especially women who are going through things like this. Yet, I was paralyzed by the fear that she would think I was weird for walking up to her and trying to involve myself in her life. Instead of moving to help, I stayed clear of the situation because I felt it was none of my business and I really didn’t want to intrude. She was gone by the time I came back through, so I was left wondering what had happened to her and feeling as though I missed yet another opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ.
I know that I cannot possibly help everyone I see, but in that moment I should have been asking myself what Jesus would have done if He had seen this girl. I’m pretty sure, from what I have learned of Him, that He would have gone over to her and asked how He could help. No, He would have healed her. He would have done everything in His power to change her situation from bad to better because that is who He is. He doesn’t turn a blind eye to suffering because it gets in the way of His shopping. Sadly, this is not the first time I’ve passed up an opportunity to help someone. I know there have been many times when I’ve held onto the money that was in my pocket out of a deep-seated fear of poverty. I didn’t have the faith to give what I had to help someone whose situation was worse than my own because I wasn’t sure that my situation would still be good if I helped them. For someone who gives thanks to God every day for His provision, I’m certainly not walking the walk very well. And while I understand that this comes from a broken place in me, I still should know enough about my God by now to trust Him on this issue. No matter how low my bank account has been, He has always made a way for me.
I’m not saying all of this to run myself down. Really, I’m so very thankful to God for the many, many, many blessings He has given me in my life. He has pulled me up out of the pit more times than I care to admit. He has made a way out of nothing and He has continually given me beauty for ashes. So why am I still so afraid at times to step out and let His Holy Spirit lead me in times when it is clear that I need to let go of my own hang-ups about money or privacy and just ask someone if I can help them? There are times when it is unmistakably clear that the person is in need of something and I will basically try to focus my attention on anything but them in order to avoid reaching out. This bothers me, so I made a list of the reasons why I can’t help or rather, don’t help when I see someone in need. The reasons are:
- It might be dangerous. This is one I tend to use most when my daughter is with me. So instead of teaching her to reach out to help others, it teaches her to fear those who need help. Not the right message at all. But this sense of self-preservation is hard to shake. It is especially difficult when you have been talked down to or otherwise chastised for putting yourself in what others see as a potentially dangerous situation. The fact that many are distrustful of the poor or disadvantaged makes it hard to get others to understand that if you are helping someone out of love for God, He will protect you. He wants us to use wisdom, but not to let ego or fear be the reason we choose not to help.
- What if I need the money later? Is it really going to hurt me to give someone the last $5 bill I have in my pocket when I know that God has always provided for me? Am I really not able to buy someone a gallon of milk because I might need that $3 for a coffee tomorrow morning? Um…no, stop being ridiculously self-centered and greedy. The last thing you need is another coffee and you could be saving that person’s life by simply helping them buy a gallon of milk.
- They might expect me to help them all the time. Well, so! What else are you doing with your life? If you can help, you should help. If you can’t, then just say so. There is no rule that says you cannot help someone without becoming their constant source of sustenance. By helping, you’re supposed to be reinforcing the idea that God is their source. If you do it the right way, they won’t be confused.
- They might be scamming me. Again, so! If someone has the guts or the all-out audacity to approach me and ask for help, should I make them feel like nothing or should I just tell them whether or not I can help and show them the respect that I’m supposed to show another human being? Our job is to do the right thing and if they are scamming us, they will answer to God for their behavior. This goes for tithing as well. Many give the excuse that they won’t tithe because they don’t trust their church leaders to use the money the way it should be used. Well, we must do what we know to be right and allow God to deal with those who seek to take advantage of our obedience to Him. Our job is to serve Him, His job is to reward or judge accordingly and He is quite capable of doing that.
- I already give enough. Sure you do. We all think that. This is the problem with prescribed ideas of giving. It really has nothing to do with giving 10% or any set amount. It has to do with whether or not you have a heart that is willing to show love to anyone and everyone even when you know that you’re going to be disappointed, hurt, heartbroken, or even made to look like a fool.
The point is to use wisdom and to pray for God to show you when you have done all that you can. By helping others, we are not showing weakness. We are showing strength. His strength. We are showing that we value the person standing next to us as much as we value ourselves. Hopefully, that’s a good thing. And if you are having trouble valuing yourself, please take a moment to remind yourself that God doesn’t make mistakes. No matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been, He loves you and He wants you to be happy. And one of the best ways to be happy is by helping others to be happy. There is no greater gift you can give to someone than the peace that comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ. Once you begin to walk with Him, you need to know that your supply of that peace is unlimited. He will never leave you or forsake you. He is with you and He is for you, whether you feel you deserve it or not. Don’t be so worried about what others will think of you for helping someone that you forget what others will think of Him if you, as a Christian, refuse to help. It’s His reflection they need to see, not yours.
if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
~Romans 12:8 New International Version (NIV)~