Written by MayBell Developments – March 31st, 2022
“For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.”
– Matthew 26:11
Even in 30 AD during his ministry and 1,992 years ago, Jesus knew that we would never truly solve the issue of poverty. We can interpret this in a way that makes our efforts seem futile and at times we really may be tossing pebbles in a pile attempting to build a mountain.
How do we stay motivated as we seek to serve those less fortunate in our communities?
When Jesus told his disciples that the poor would always be with them he was referencing a verse in Deuteronomy
“For there will never cease to be poor in the land…”
The Hebrew word for poor in this verse is ‘eḇyôn meaning a needy person; someone subject to oppression or abuse; someone in need of deliverance, especially from God; or referring to the lowest class. What Jesus left out, and what those around him would have perceived in his meaning, is the second half of this verse.
“… Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ – Deuteronomy 15:11
We are not left without hope but instead with a command and with hope in the resurrection (Mt 26:12). While on this earth we have a responsibility to care for those around us, “in our land” meaning the earth. We are called to “open” (pāṯaḥ) or to let loose our “hand” (yāḏ) meaning our literal hand but also our power and our share of material belongings.
We openly share the power and material belongings that we have been graciously given by God with:
“If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.” – Leviticus 25:35
We are called to support our brothers, or as in NASB translation our fellow countrymen. Support in this verse comes from the Hebrew word ḥāzaq meaning: to make strong, strengthen; to make firm; to display strength; to make severe; to support; to repair; to prevail, prevail upon; to have or take or keep hold of, retain, hold up, sustain, support; to hold, contain. Picture this in caring for the poor in our community to support a person is not to give them money/food/clothes/shelter and leave. To truly support people in a Biblical way we must strengthen them, build them up, support them, help restore them, hold them in their time of need.
Caring for our countrymen goes much deeper than many of us imagine.
We don’t have to look far to see the need in the lives around us. People right here in Regina are suffering every day. They are in need; physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
We only have to look at the most recent Point In Time Count snapshot. The number of people experiencing some form of homelessness (sheltered, couch surfing, unsheltered, etc) has increased by 170% between 2018 and 2021. The number of people who were spending that night in an unsheltered public space has increased by 1,133%! This is the physical result of unmet emotional and spiritual needs as well as a clear gap in our housing system.
The top 3 reasons for recent housing loss in 2021 were: financial issues, conflict with a partner, and substance use. As a society, we are aware of these pits that those experiencing poverty are continually falling into. How do we as Christians react to these unmet needs? It is tempting to assume that someone else will handle the situation and that our actions will not make an impact. Often we hear calls to the government to correct the situation; to provide more money for housing, create more incentives for employment, introduce more harm-reduction centres. These are all great programs and are a lifeline for many people, however, in many cases, they are trapping people in an endless cycle of dependence instead of building them up so they can climb out of poverty.
We’ve had many women reaching out to us lately to become Lilium Village tenants. They all have needs that can be met but aren’t.
Sadie (names have been changed) has pulled herself out of addictions and regained custody of her 3 children. They are about to become homeless because Sadie is on the SIS program and her rent is increasing. Getting work means finding childcare for her 3 kids which is expensive. It also means her SIS payments are cut back and she won’t be able to pay rent. Sadie is stuck in a poverty cycle. With some understanding and compassion for her situation, Sadie has the motivation to create the future her and her children dream of, all she needs is a chance.
Holly is a mom of 2 who is working a minimum wage job and is about to lose her housing due to an upcoming rent increase. She has not been able to find good employment with a criminal record from 23 years ago. She needs to be understood, to not be written off because of her past but for someone to truly see all that she is capable of. She is a caring person with a passion for youth care and the certificate to go along with it but the world does not see this and so her needs are intensified where they could be easily met with compassion.
These women are two of too many. So what are we as Christians called to do in these situations? Support, build, share, hold, strengthen. Practically this looks like getting to know someone’s talents and encouraging them to develop those skills; seeing your own connections and favour with others and how those can provide opportunities for others; creating a safe space for others to learn and grow in so they can reach their full potential.
The most practical and life-changing way we can pour into others is through our Saviour Jesus Christ. We know that our basic needs must be met. Even Jesus was aware that we must have earthly needs met on this earth after all he did feed the 5,000. But even more important than this is our spiritual need.
When Jesus healed or fed people he did so to bring people into a relationship with God; to show God’s power and to bring Him glory.
“But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.” – Matthew 9:6-8
He healed very real physical needs, but he always pointed people towards God. As we strive to be more like Jesus in the world we should also look to do the same. Meet the physical and emotional needs of those around us while pointing to the gaping spiritual hole and saying “here’s Jesus, he can fill this”.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
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