Helping “The Least of These”…

I spend a lot of time on this blog trying to convince you that Jesus intended us to help each other out. Especially those less fortunate than us. I have mentioned that I volunteer to do the cooking a couple of days a week at a soup kitchen. That is one way that I attempt to do what Jesus says. But I don’t think I have ever tried to give you any advice on other ways you can help with the homeless and financially challenged. I will attempt to fill that void, at least a little bit, via this post.

  • One of the least productive ways of doing this is by giving money to those who beg for it at local intersections.  It is widely known that almost half of the homelessness is complicated by drug addictions. When we give money directly to those unfortunate souls we are likely inadvertently supporting their drug habit instead of helping them with a hand up.
  • Instead of giving them money offer to take them to a local restaurant for  lunch or to a grocery story for food for their families. That way you know where the money you give is going.
  • Another very efficient way is to contribute to those agencies who support the less fortunate with a place to sleep or a hot meal. There are usually several of these types of places in even the smallest towns.  The one I support with both my time and money is Backstreet Missions in Bloomington Indiana. They support homeless men in one shelter and battered women with children in another. They also serve about four hundred meals a week to the less fortunate in the community.  There are literally thousands of these type agencies throughout the U.S. Most of them do this through no government or religious denominational support.
  • Another way to support “the least of these” is to support the concept of healthcare for all. Over half the bankruptcies in the U.S. are related to people drowning in medical expense debt. That condition is a major contributor to being homeless or very financially challenged. It greatly saddens me that many Christian denominations today that are aligned with radical right politics seem to be against the idea of healthcare for all. The very concept of being against universal healthcare seems very unChristian to me.
  • One of the ways that the children of the financially challenged break the strangle hold of poverty is through Pell Grants. These are annual scholarships given to kids whose families earn less than $25,000/year. Unfortunately, due to the Republican party’s insistence and President Obama’s signing off on it, the latest round of budget cuts just signed into law pretty much gutted these college scholarships. You can help the financially challenged by calling your congressperson and telling them to re-instate the Pell Grants.
In the coming weeks I will try to offer you additional ways that you can help the poor and homeless. If you have time many agencies can use your help. If you don’t have time (but we all have the same twenty-four hours a day 🙂 ) then you can help by contributing your money to their operations. The last few years has resulted in a dramatic increase in the needs in this area at the same time that donations are decreasing. Agencies who support Jesus’ work in this are really struggling to meet the needs.

Our Sheltered Lives…..

I am a frequent visitor to several Christian blogs. One of the bigger ones I recently visited was discussing  Matt 26:11  The poor you will always have with you.  There were the usual posts saying that Jesus was inferring that “since the poor will always be here why bother to do anything about it”. These types of comments used to get me upset but I know that is NOT was Jesus was saying so they don’t get to me like they used to.

But there were several comments the to post from people who clearly don’t understand what it means to be poor. First of all I want to be clear that all of the comments were from people in the United States. There were about 30 comments in all on this particular post. One person said something to the effect that poor people are the ones who are still watching TV on the old tube type sets. He didn’t understand why it would be his duty to help them buy flat screens.  Another mentioned that some “poor” have to drive cars that are over 5 years old and that is just too bad; they need to get better jobs! Let me say again that this was a Christian blog. Clearly these people have a very narrow and myopic perception of what it means to be poor. They evidently are just not aware of what being poor is really about. It truly amazed me just how sheltered lives some people live.  

Some people have labeled today’s twenty to thirty year olds the “Entitlement Generation”. The reasoning goes that this group of people have been raised to believe that they are entitled immediately to high paying jobs and lavish three thousand square foot or larger homes with mandatory oak hardwood floors and granite countertops.  I suspect that some of the responders in the above posting are in that category. They seem to have very little concept of what the world actually looks like outside their communities doors.   I must admit that I myself didn’t have much of an idea of what the world was really like when I was their age either (but that was many many years ago). I had been raised in a lower middle class community where everyone was white and working class.  We didn’t have a lot but we didn’t suffer either. It was not until I got to college that I realized that the rest of the world was not particularly like us. Of course college changed much of that except maybe for the economic status. There were not then, or probably not now, many people in college from poor families.  That aspect of my education came later. Anyway, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised even in the Internet age  that twentysomethings don’t really know what poverty is.

No poverty is not doing without a flat screen TV or a car that is older than five years. Poverty is where you do not know where your next meal is coming from. You do not have a roof over your head. You do not have safe drinking water. You are surviving on as little at $12/week. Unfortunately a good percentage of the world (some figures show it up to 40% of the world’s population) are in poverty. Yes, that even includes people in the United States.

Let’s end with a prayer. God our father, your Son welcomed all who cam to him, even the outcasts and the despised. Give us faith that dares to come to you, trusting only in your love. Give us a love that accepts others, as we have been accepted by you. Compassionate Savior, too often we forget how many in our world are homeless, poor, and hungry. In your mercy relieve their suffering and pain. Remind us that when we help a person in need we are serving you.

Being Your Brother’s Keeper – Kennedy Style….

I just wanted to make a quick post in honor of Senator Ted Kennedy.  It’s a shame that his life long passionate goal of making healthcare a right instead of a privledge for ALL Americans did not become a reality while he was with us. I know he was an honorable Christian and a good Catholic.   Here’s to you Ted I hope your dream becomes a reality soon. 

I know there are those out there who would like to trash his memory over issues you disagreed with him on. But, this is not the appropriate time and since I won’t approve them on this blog today, this is not the appropriate place.

When we Christians shun our responsibilities….

Jesus clearly told us to be our brother’s keeper but somewhere along the way we Christians unapologetically shunned that responsibility. During the first three centuries Christians were very much their brother’s keeper. They often pooled their resources so that those most needy were taken care of. They not only cared for their own there is even documented evidence showing that they took care of those not even Christians.  But, of course, this is what Jesus did so they were just following his lead.

The vast majority of Christian congregations today spend about 95% of what they gather on themselves or their organization’s hierarchy leaving little for kingdom of God work particularly in the brother’s keeper area.  When that happened the moral goodness, which I believe to be also a gift from God to all humanity, dictated that the kingdoms of the world take over that task. Some do a much better job of it than others. The government of Sudan seems to totally reject the “brother’s keeper” mentality.  Many thousands die daily of starvation and political genocide. Whereas, thank the Lord, the government of the United States has generally taken up this task in our absence, at least to a partial degree. Or at least one of our political parties carries that mantle. 

Now I’m not saying that Christians do nothing in this area. Indeed some of the best humanitarian agencies in this area are Christian based. But, their total contributions is almost miniscule compared to the need. Having religious institutions take over all the care for the poor is probably now beyond the realm of possibilities so I guess we must depend on our governments to do that for us. They are instituted by God so I suppose you could say it is now their duty. To even suggest as some do that since we Christians won’t do it our governments should stay out of it also is a total affront to the teachings of Jesus. It is indeed a sad day that many Evangelical Christians seem to be saying that very thing today. Shame on us for shunning this compassionate responsibility!