Friday, February 22, 2013

Doing Good For All People

10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. — Galatians 6:10 (NASB95)
Ancient Hebrew wisdom describes four levels of charity. The highest level is to provide a job for one in need without his knowledge that you provided it. The next, lower level is to provide work that the needy one knows you provided. The third level is to give an anonymous gift to meet an immediate need. The lowest level of charity, to be avoided if at all possible, is to give a poor person a gift with his full knowledge that you are the donor. – Robert D. Lupton, Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life (Regal, 2007), p. 26
Ancient Hebrew wisdom was truly wise. Their highest level of charity not only provided the help needed, but enabled a person to hold on to their self-respect at the same time. That’s more important than you might think.

Anybody who has tried to help the poor knows it’s not easy. There are those who, because of life’s circumstances, find it necessary to ask for help. There’s a great deal of shame involved, even though there’s nothing really to be ashamed about. Those people are also some of the most appreciative to those who lend a hand.

But those are not the only ones who need help. There are a great many in today’s world who were born into a society that seems to have locked them into a life of poverty. They don’t know anything but how to work the “system” to survive. You can say what you want about a benevolent government, but sometimes, all the well-meaning handouts in the world won’t give a person a sense of self-respect, nor will it teach them how to rise above the bottom.

There are others who, for whatever reason, just choose to live with nothing. Give them something and they’re likely to sell it for drink or drugs.

All of this is greatly over-simplified here. Space is insufficient to accurately, fully, and sensitively address the issues of the poor. And yet, we’re called upon to be gracious in the way we treat people, to help the poor, as best we can, to do more than just survive. It’s a hard job. You can’t help some people. Try as you might, it will drain you and leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth. But you can help some.

Here’s what makes all this harder still - you can’t know which person you can help and which you can’t until you try. It would surely be easier if there was some telltale sign, but there isn’t. Maybe the helping spirit is more about us than the person we help. If we remember that, we’ll always do the right thing, for all people.