Helping Those In-Need: An Essay by Myles Berg
An Essay By Myles Berg of Palo Alto
Member of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church
HELPING PEOPLE IN-NEED
Do we have compassion and mercy for people who have difficulty being able to fully function for themselves? The real question is what do we do about it?
For me, the easiest way is to give some money to a Christian organization that is providing help both physically and spiritually.
There are so many requests and I cannot evaluate and respond to them all, so I give to organizations that I know have reputation and outreach, and who provide a new letter on what they have done and are doing. They also come back with the new needs and requests for more money. Does this cycle ever end?
It is one thing when we are dealing with people in-need; it is another when dealing with failed countries in-need. The problem is in defining the basic cause of the need, we need to understand the source in order to fix it. Often it can be a need that is not resolved by just money (the Band-Aid).
There is the old saying, “don’t give a man a fish, but teach him how to fish.”
This way we are enabling the people to fill their needs themselves. The best kind of support is one that is self-sustaining.
These approaches do not work well in a corrupt government and public system. Giving these systems resources often just makes thinks worse. So we ask the question, “What is wrong with letting some system totally fail?”
It is often mentioned that this is the only way to get a failed system back into functioning again. This does cause more pain, suffering, and death, but supporting a failed system just continues the existing pain, suffering, and death, which may even get worse.
Is going in and taking over a country with military force any better? The military option requires a long term commitment, often generations long to rebuild, re-educate, and train the people. What does God’s Word have to say about all this? What are His solutions?
The Greatest Commandment
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40 NIV)
Who is My Neighbor?
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” (Luke 10:29-37 NIV)
Use Your Freedom to Help Others
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:13-14 NIV)
Taking Care Of Others
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:34-46 NIV)
Eye For Eye
You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42 NIV)
Love Your Enemies
You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?
Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?
Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. ” (Matthew 5:43-48 NIV)
Give To The Poor
While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” (Matthew 26:6-11 NIV)
God Has Chosen The Poor
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you?
Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?
Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. (James 2:5-9 NIV)
Have Not Love
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:3-7 NIV)
First Will Be Last
Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
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.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” … “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”(Matthew 19:16, 21-24, 30 NIV)
Helped Other Person and Prayed
At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. (Acts 10:1-2 NIV)
“Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in-need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.
Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.” … “If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in-need.” (1 Timothy 5:3-10, 16 NIV)
Ask, Seek, and Knock
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:7-12 NIV)
Be At Peace
Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written:
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:17-19 NIV)
You Do Not Have
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3 NIV)
Interpretation of Scripture – A Few Key Points
- The Greatest Commandment: This is the basis for all the other passages on helping people. This leads to a very broad definition of love. To love one another includes helping them when they are in-need.
- Taking Care Of Others: This gives the broad reach of loving others and the judgments to come for those who do not. Loving one another is a primary commandment, and thus we would expect discipline when we are not aggressively following this commandment.
- Ask, Seek, Knock: This in general summarized our seeking God to help us in loving others. Some of the related headings give reasons why we have problems in following God’s commandments to love others. We do not have because we do not ask God who only give us the best which may not be what we desire, but what we need.
- Widows: This relates to the tradition was that the widow should remarry if younger or be the responsibility of the relatives of older. Basically this indicates that the family has the primary responsibility for help. They may need help to do this, but they are an important link in the process.
Summary and Conclusions
How can we not have compassion for those who are struggling in life due to their low functional abilities?
There are major ethical, moral, and legal problems however. Are we really helping them for the long-term recovery or are we just delaying the inevitable with a longer life of pain and suffering?
There comes a time when death is the final outcome. There should be an Advance Directive for Health Care to give guidance in these cases, which helps in establishing the “right” things to do. These are “high level” decisions with the patient, family, doctor, and perhaps a pastor if they are believers. God has set a time for our death when our work on Earth is over, but very seldom does anyone know the day or the hour.
On a personal level, we may see ourselves in that position and want to do for them what we would like someone to do for us if we are ever in that low functioning ability. The old golden rule“ Do unto others what you would like them to do for you.” (Matthew 7:12 above). There is a lot of good counseling that can be done to help both the patient and those working with them. The initial objective is to establish a good relationship and then help can be more productive.
Again, as there are many levels in a patient functionality, there are many levels in support that a person can give from just a friendly hello and short visit to a deeper relationship. It all depends upon the circumstances and the needs.
Life is not about us but about loving God and others. We were created to love others. It was never planned that we would be alone and self-sufficient but in close community with others and supporting one another and thanking God for all He has done for us.
Before helping anyone we need to pray for God’s direction and empowerment so that our help brings loving support to those in-need and gives the glory to God. We need to help people God’s way and not allow them to just drift along in the ways of the world. Helping others is not about our abilities and strengths, but about God’s direction and empowerment through the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit.
@ Myles R. Berg 01/13/2011