Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)
Right now, it's 6am about 25 degrees in Louisville and I'm sitting in a heated live truck. When I stand outside for my live hits, I begin to shiver.
I'm watching a homeless person struggle with a cardboard box. He lives under the stairwell of a parking garage, across the street from the police department and steps away from where I stand for my live shot. This isn't the first time I've seen him. He's got to be miserable under there, and at times, dangerously cold. I don't know what I can do to help him, and I'm afraid to approach him.
This morning, an older woman pulled up to our truck asking for directions and money for gas. We gave her directions but I told her I didn't have cash, and I've been filled with regret ever since. What a missed opportunity to help someone out of a tough spot.
I've spent the last two days (my weekend) in a church, reading my Bible- the chapter of Luke. The more I read about Jesus and his life here on earth, the more I realize how much we are missing the mark as Christians in America. And my actions today, turning down a woman who asked for help, shows me how wrong *I'm* getting it.
Jesus spent his life helping the most vulnerable- the poorest, the sickest. Jesus didn't teach Christianity to be self-serving. We'd like to think we're helping others, but are we really? What are we sacrificing to help others? What are we giving up, what are we sharing? In Luke, Jesus asked a rich person to give up all his possessions to help the poor, and to "Follow me." How many of us would be able to do that? I would like to think I would, but when it comes down to it, I really just don't know.
What if we think we're being taken advantage of? That's inconsequential:
Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. (Luke 6:30)
In his book, "When Helping Hurts: How to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor... and yourself," Brian Fikkart writes:
"North American Christians are simply not doing enough. We are the richest people ever to walk the face of the earth. Period. Yet, most of us live as though there is nothing terribly wrong in the world. We attend our kids' soccer games, pursue our careers, and take beach vacations while 40 percent of the world's inhabitants struggle just to eat every day. And in our own backyards, the homeless, those residing in ghettos, and a wave of immigrants live in a world outside the economic and social mainstream of North America. We do not necessarily need to feel guilty about our wealth. But we do need to get up every morning with a deep sense that something is terribly wrong with the world and yearn and strive to do something about it. There is simply not enough yearning and striving going on."
Are we yearning and striving to help the poor, the needy? What happens when the needy comes to us to help? I obviously have a lot to learn. I clearly have become "polluted by the world" as we are cautioned against in James 1:27.
But it's a worthwhile plight. It's important not to give up, even when we fail.
Why? Because that's what we're called to do as Christians. Because that's how Jesus lived his life. Because we shouldn't allow ourselves to be polluted by the world. Because we can't take it with us. Because when we help those who are materially poor, we sometimes learn about spiritual wealth. Because when we are in the place where God calls us to be, we are filled with an immeasurable joy and a fullness that we can't find elsewhere.