As I continue my meditative reading of the letters of John, this is what stands out for me in Chapter 3:
“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” 1 John 3:17
How often do you and I do this very thing every day? We pass by the homeless man on the corner without a thought; we ignore the fact that our consumer goods are often produced by people who are enslaved or exploited; maybe we even excuse ourselves from helping the person next door who lost his job, or the fellow church member with big medical bills. We can’t give to everyone and everything, right?
It’s true. It can be overwhelming. However, it’s a clear command, and the Bible has a lot to say about helping others. Here are just a few verses:
- Deuteronomy 15:11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.
- Proverbs 3:27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in your power to act.
- Matthew 5:42 Give to the one who asks you and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
- Matthew 25:44-45 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.’
- Luke 3:10-11 ‘What should we do then?’ the crowd asked. John answered, ‘Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.’
- Romans 12:13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
- James 2:14-17 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
So, what should we do? Well, pray; pay attention; when you see a need you can meet, don’t hesitate. Don’t worry about helping someone who is “undeserving” — we usually don’t have enough information to judge that correctly. Educate yourself–find out about what’s going on in the larger community and the world–remember everyone is our neighbor. Discover your our unique spiritual gifts and then use them in a way that benefits those around you. You may not be called to serve meals at a mission, but maybe you can help in a support position. Maybe you don’t have much excess income, but you do have time. Speak up when you know someone is struggling–maybe you can’t meet all the needs yourself, but together a group you are part of can.
I hope this gives you a few ideas. Remember the parable of the talents. Nobody who used their talents to make more was condemned. We can’t do everything but we can each do something.
For more posts about generosity see: