Why Helping The Poor Costs More Than Just Money


I could write a post on how to care for the poor and homeless, or I could repost this incredibly Biblical piece by my friend Randy Alcorn. (see my RTRQ on this same topic) The only thing wrong with it is it was written almost a quarter of a century ago and therefore the stats are not current. (unsurprisingly the stats, and our attentiveness to the truth have only gotten worse. For the best current stats check out this article.

Fortunately the truth is always timeless and if we don’t want the stats to get worse we should pay more attention to these Truths from God’s words over the next 25 years than we have the last.

For now…pull out your bible and read this.

For tomorrow…pull up your britches and get busy being a doer of the word and not a continuer of the problem.

I have said it before and I’ll say it here again. If you are a member (not regular attender) of Watermark and your economic need is not because of unrepentant laziness, wastefulness, irresponsibility, self-indulgence, or some other unbiblical practice, you will not go hungry or homeless without all the rest of us draining all we have to help. Our Charis team works tirelessly to truly help and it is incredibly encouraging to watch the leadership of Careers in Motion and members of communities here executing on all the things mentioned in Randy’s article long before any of them ever read it.

That’s because they have long ago chosen to read and obey the same source material Randy used decade’s ago to write his piece for Discipleship Journal. True disciples always care for each other this way and I pray you and your fellowship of disciples join us in biblically caring for and loving one another. If you read nothing else in Randy’s article (and you should read all of it and the Scripture he references) read these reminders for the church.

The church is not to take over responsibilities that properly belong to family members (1 Tim. 5:8). In light of this principle, our church leaders approached an elderly woman’s brother to encourage him to meet her material needs he had neglected. He was embarrassed, but he got involved in the life of his sister precisely because we called on him to. Had we continued helping her, he never would have. It is the church’s role to encourage the family to fulfill its responsibilities, not to take over those responsibilities. (Of course, if family members refuse to help, the church must.)

Churches need to help the poor not just by giving money or food, but personal attention—our time, our skills, and our personal interest. An elderly widow doesn’t just need a check, she needs someone to take her shopping, to sit and talk with her, to pray with her. She may need someone to mow her lawn, fix her fence, drive her to church. When we see the homeless, God may not just want us to open our pocketbooks, but our homes (Rom. 12:13). When we opened our home to a needy woman for a year, we had the privilege of seeing her come to Christ. No evangelistic efforts are more credible than those authenticated by hospitality. (Even when we open our homes, however, biblical compassion means expecting them to contribute to the household in some meaningful way.)

What many people need is not more money, but personal help in handling the money they have. (Contact Watermark’s Moneywise ministry if this is your need.) Good financial counseling, including how to make and stick to a reasonable budget, is a far more valuable gift than $500 to bail someone out of a situation he should never have gotten into in the first place. Direction in how to find and keep a job is much more helpful than putting groceries on a shelf while someone sits home and watches television all day. When a middle aged career person is laid off, he not only needs to find a new job, but may need support to avoid paralytic depression.

I am humbled to be living out the principles of Scripture with my brothers and sisters at Watermark and for the word of God that mapped our steps long before we read a 22 year old article. Ready the ancient text and walk in the ancient paths with us, they do not lead to homelessness or helping that hurts.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply