Helping the Poor, the Widows, the Orphans, and All Others Who I Didn’t Know Needed Help

Posted on June 16, 2014


The last time I went to lay out my arm to give blood to the Red Cross, I couldn’t do it. I used to donate blood regularly but since going annually on mission trips to Honduras, the Red Cross computes that as being in a “malarial” region and so my blood is tainted.
Sigh, even doing good can be a problem.
The mission helps fulfill the Bible’s teaching to help the poor, the widows, the orphans of the world. That is part of being a Christian.
The Apostle James, in his book (2:15-17), addressed the issue directly.
“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.”
What I didn’t realize is how many widows, orphans, the poor, and the needy exist in the world. The categories are mind boggling.
We all, I suspect, face the problem every day: solicitations to help the needy, or those in need from their particular circumstances: the police in need of flak vests; retired firemen in need; legless veterans in need; children starving in Haiti or the Sudan in need; the Salvation Army in need; the Red Cross in need; abandoned and starving pets in need, storm victims in need, and the list goes on endlessly.
What do you do? I’d like to enfold many (not all) of them in an embrace of love and say, “here is a check, here is my credit card, here is my money, here is my blood.”
The blood was easy to give, a rush of good will after the poke of the needle. But, alas, I’m malarial these days, so I’m told.
Now, let’s suppose we have resources to spare, or expendable income, or whatever economists call it today. What do you do with it?
Do you take the family on a cruise to the Bahamas, or, instead, give a dairy cow ($650) to a family in need? It’s not that simple, but for the sake of argument, let’s draw in black and white.
Last Christmas I read a wonderful pamphlet put together by World Vision, devoted to helping the poor around the world. World Vision is “motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, [and] we serve alongside the poor and oppressed as a demonstration of God’s unconditional love for all people.” One page in their flyer advertises “Give a Goat, Save a child’s life with milk, cheese and much more.” Goats were available at the going rate of $75 last November. I gave a goat in my brother’s name last Christmas.
Proverbs 28:27 sustains me in my goat giving “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.”
If you are rich, or well off, or comfortable, or whatever euphemism you choose to use, then do you have any obligations to give?
If you are in the Judeo-Christian tradition, then look it up in Scripture, your “Bible” for what to do to be in God’s will.
How does all this help me discriminate among the daily calls, solicitations, and other pleas that come through the phone, the mails, on email?
I don’t like to turn down worthy causes, but we all must. Even the Bill Gates of the world have to choose where they will put their billions to address the world’s problems, like hunger and diseases.
What astounds me as much as the multitude of pleas and causes is the generosity of my fellow Americans. All these pleas and solicitations wouldn’t be coming if they weren’t being answered.
We are often depicted as a greedy, narcissistic, self-serving people, given to taking care of ourselves, and only ourselves. But there is a side to us that is generous, giving, loving, and sensitive to the needs of others.
In a free society, we have choices to make every day. Scripture simplifies the decision on giving for me by laying down the principles.
My church helps me by collecting my tithe and doing good with it.
But I still have some left over and so I must measure my good fortune against the needs of so many others.
It is, in many ways, a mirror of life. We make decisions on a daily basis not simply on what is best for us, but also on what is it that God would have us do. So, to the beach this weekend in the R.V., or a nice fat milk-giving cow to a kid in Uganda?


Published as Helping Those I Didn’t Know Needed Help in my column, The Port Rail in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday June 15, 2014