"My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here's a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,' have you not discriminated among yourselves and becomes judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: 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?" James 2:1-4
One day a few weeks ago I felt an overwhelming pull on my heart’s strings to seek out the homeless. It was an ordinary day that began with my usual routine – quiet time with the Lord, coffee, breakfast, and dropping my son off at school. As I was leaving the drop off zone at his elementary I suddenly pictured in my mind a homeless man that I’ve seen before at Target. Following this mental picture was an unexpected flood of emotion and desire to seek out as many broken and hurting people as possible. I literally just felt an inexplicable inclination to start driving and look for them anywhere I could, and somehow I just knew God would lead the way. As strong of a pull as this was, one would think that I immediately dropped everything else on my schedule and headed out in search of the homeless. I tell you now that I didn’t. Instead, I smiled at what a nice thought I was having and then turned the car towards home. “I have too much to get done this morning,” I rationalized. I wonder how many people I could have blessed that day had I driven the opposite direction and chased after the broken?
The Bible is clear in its instruction of how we’re to treat the poor. From the beginning of God’s Word, we are told not to neglect the poor or deny them justice (Exodus 23:6, 23:11; Leviticus 19:10, 23:22, 25:25, 35, 39, and many more) but God doesn’t just ask us not to neglect or deny them. As an extension of what not to do, we’re also told what we should do. It’s not enough that we don’t hurt them, neglect them, or deny them; we need to take action and help them (1 John 3:18). Have you ever walked past a homeless person, but knowing you didn’t have any money or food to offer, you kept walking? In your mind you may have rationalized that because you didn’t have anything to offer, it would be better for both of you if you just didn’t acknowledge his or her presence. You may even have convinced yourself that you were doing him/her a favor because “If he asks me for money and I have to say ‘no,’ he’ll be disappointed. I’ll just spare him that disappointment by pretending I don’t see him at all.” You’re also off the hook now because if he asked for money and you had to say you didn’t have any, you would feel guilty, right? So, it’s better to just pretend he’s not there, but to be extra convincing you pull out your cell phone and start to dial a number so that he sees with his own eyes that your attention is focused elsewhere. “Let’s just hope he doesn’t actually try to talk to me,” you think in fear. (Because if he spoke, then an acknowledgement would be unavoidable, so hopefully he’ll just see that you’re getting on the phone and he’ll move on to the next person). Wow, what an exhausting and unnecessarily stressful situation, right?
The homeless men, women, and children of this world aren't here to make your day more stressful. They're here to serve a purpose just like you. Though it’s true that they are often and justifiably seeking money, food, or shelter, do you know what they’re actually seeking the most? Your awareness. Your acknowledgement. Your smile. Your hug. Your word. Your touch. Your conversation. Your ear. Your purpose and theirs may be more intertwined than you know. Have you ever stopped to just sit down with one of “those people” who stand, often silently, begging for help? Have you ever just asked them to tell you their story? I can’t count the number of times when I didn’t have cash on me or food to buy, and all I could do was say “hi”-- a small gesture indeed, but what a big smile I was given in return. A couple of years ago I met regularly with a group of homeless men and women in Fullerton, and relationships were formed through the simple question of “What is your name and how did you get out here?” They are desperate to be heard almost more than they are hungry for food, and when someone stops to show an interest in their life, they are satisfied beyond the calories of a burger or shake. We classify them as “homeless,” God classifies them as “children.” We see them as society’s rejected, but God sees them as His precious chosen (James 2:5). Helping them doesn’t always mean feeding them or offering them money; it often means just listening and talking, hugging and caring. I wonder how many opportunities to help I’ve missed in my life simply because I didn’t see or didn’t want to see. I pray that God lines up multiplied opportunities to make up for those I’ve missed, and when He tells me again to start chasing broken, may He point me in the right direction and help me to run.
"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:17-18
Running towards Him,
*The above entry was actually a devotional I wrote for Grace Harbor Church. For more information about Grace Harbor or to read more of their devotionals, please visit their site directly at http://www.graceharborministries.com
Video taken from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qt2mbGP6vFI&ob=av3e
Imake taken from www.tjjournal.com