Every month, my church does a homeless ministry called “Love in Action.” We take a hot, home-cooked meal to an abandoned farmer’s market in the poor section of our city and serve it to whomever comes. Sometimes, we serve as few as a dozen; other times, as many as 100. I decided to get involved with this ministry several months ago, and in that time I’ve learned some interesting things about homeless people:
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We used to attend a church in Seattle that did much this same thing, but I found out that going down on the streets and reaching out to these people showed me more about myself and the heart attitudes of my church friends doing this feeding program than it did about the people we were helping! One of the ladies who was an “elder’s” wife called it “going down to feed the bums” and looked down her nose at them as she doled out food with her plastic smile. I felt terrible about just feeding these people a hot dog and some potato salad when their needs were so much greater and to try to meet those needs meant that I would have to do more on my part than giving them one meal once a month. It was too much for me and I couldn’t play the church game any longer. I also eventually resigned from being a “church deacon.” I couldn’t any longer give people who came to the monthly deacon’s meeting looking for help a ten dollar check when they were about to be booted out in the street by their landlord for lack of rent or have their power cut off. The worst part was the grilling they got as to how they spend their money before we would give them anything. We might as well of said, “Be warmed and filled. We will pray for you” and sent them on their way.
Jesus didn’t practice this kind of sterile giving. He was down in the trenches with the poor and the sick and when He gave they were healed and filled. He didn’t just say, “When I was hungry, once a month you fed me a meal.” Or “when I was naked you pointed me to the nearest thrift store.” Or, “When I was sick you sent me a get well card”… you get the picture. Today, we hear from the pulpit, “Give until it hurts,” but it only seems to apply to the church building fund or the pastor’s salary.
Michael, this is all true of course, and it truly breaks my heart, not only these people who for whatever reason, have fallen on hard times, but for the shallowness of the wealthy Laodician churches and their empty gesture of mercy. How this reminds us of the Pharisees, who operated in a similar manner.
The sister that wrote this remarkable post is apparently still part of the organized church, but with her eyes becoming more open to it’s realities. I wonder…will she really be able to make a difference there, or…will they eventually come against her…or….will she finally not be able to stomach it anymore, and just leave. Seems like when Icabod is written over the door, there is little more that can be done besides that.
In any case, Jesus is doing a mighty work with this sister, and others like her. This sister, for example, who’s blog I found, and who has a true heart for the marginialized, (shall we just go ahead and say, the poor), whom Jesus loves?
You know brother Michael, looking around me, and the other cities I’ve lived in, at the many churches, large and small, wealthy, and not so wealthy, if all the monies that were collected for “tithes” to keep them functioning, preachers salaries paid, and oh yes, the ever present building fund, etc…were gathered into one pile, there would be no end to the real help that could be done for the outcasts out there in the hedges and highways where the real needs are. Or, for that matter, for the single moms, who was left to support a couple of children who’s father abandoned them. Or the poor widows, or widowers, alone, with no family or anyone to help them.
But like you said to Carina in another post on your blog, these churches do not welcome “high maintainance” people. I know this to be true.The big “tithers” are the ones who get the leaderships approval and invited to lunch and to be on the board.
Those of us who have either walked in the shoes of the poor and disenfranchised, or close to it, know what this rejection feels like. It’s hard to have empathy and compassion until we have either suffered these things ourselves, or have come to the place to have the eyes of our understanding enlightened by Jesus, who knew something about suffering, deprivation and uncertainty himself, as the Son of Man. He who had no certain place to lay his head, nor the comfort of his own home.
Don’t you think that Jesus wants these complacent churches at ease in Zion, who call themselves by his name to learn what it is to have true unfeigned love and compassion for these “least of these”? I’m pretty sure you do, and I do too,..for he said, ”
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”
If they say, “Give til it hurts”, I wonder how much it hurts for a wealthy Christian to be magnanimous in giving out of his abundance? And as you said, who are we giving to, back to ourselves, (within the church system), or out into the cruel streets, where the hidden ones suffer in pain and silence?
May the Lord give all called by His Name… a true heart for these “least of these” we may serve Jesus by sharing what we have with them, with no thought of recompense. What does it matter the reasons why they are in need? They just are. And Jesus is watching and also keeping the record of these things.