Theres No Such Thing as Poor People Who Deserve Our Help

3 months, 9 days ago

Do poor people deserve our help? Not at all. But there’s a more important thing we need to consider …

By Craig Greenfield

My neighbors were evicted.

I came home to find their worldly belongings got a couple of dirty sheets, a filthy pink pillow and assorted clothing piled in a puddle outside my front door.

They had previously been living crammed together in one of the tiny, windowless rooms that line our alleyway.

Apparently our landowner( the same tough old lady owns a bunch of the housing around here) decided that their drunken debates were too much to put up with. So mother, father, and four kids ranging from ages 1 to 12 were hurled out on the street. They were gone before I even realized it.

A bleak existence merely became bleaker.

But heres the dilemma.Theres no doubt that the mothers relentless drinking and fighting contributed to the situation they now find themselves in.She was hard to like and even harder to help. She forgot her children in order to sit drinking and playing cards with the neighbors. She would holler at her daughters when they forgot to cook the rice or clean the clothes, while she sat around doing nothing.

So, why should I help her?

Have you ever noticed that theres something in our human nature that seeks to divide people on the margins into the deserving poor and the undeserving poor? On the one hand, a trash-talking alcoholic who forgets her kids in order to play cards all day is easily deemed undeserving, while the four innocent children has an impact on her behavior are clearly deserving .

I bet I could create a ton of fund to assistance those children. But Id be hard-pressed to get folks to open their billfolds to help that woman.

What I want to suggest to you today is that asking whether people are deserving or undeserving is the WRONG question. And when you ask the wrong topic, youll get the wrong answer every single time.

Interestingly, Jesus dealt with this problem.In those days, disability and poverty were viewed as the outcomes of sin. Much of the world today believes this route. Its called Karma the idea that your sins in previous lives immediately impact this life. But Jesus rejected that analysis.

When the adherents came across a blind man, they wanted Jesus to tell them whose sin caused his quandary. They wanted Jesus to apportion blame.Instead Jesus has been decided to pivot to the more important truth 😛 TAGEND As “hes been gone” along, he saw a man blind from birth. His adherents asked him, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind ? Neither this human nor his mothers sinned, said Jesus, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. ( John 9:1 -3 )

Jesus is stimulating it clear that Gods work in transforming lives is more about Deities love than whether the beneficiaries are deserving or not. For no one is worthy. Thats why we need Divinities grace. In Matthew 25, Jesus does not categorize people based on whether they had sinnedor not. Nor did He judge them by whether they had already had multiple chancesor not . His bellow was simply to reach out to those whose needs are unmet and love them: I was hungry. I was thirsty. I was unclothed. I was in prison. I was sick. So, here are threeprinciples is maintaining mind as you engage with those who might be viewed as undeserving in your own life and ministry 😛 TAGEND

1. Extend the same grace you have for yourself, to others

The words of Jesus, Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you are beautifully applicable in this situation.After all, we ALL have sinned and fallen short of Gods standards for our lives. If we measured how much each of us deserve grace, forgiveness and love, you and I would BOTH fall short.

By a mile.

When I talk about widening grace, some assume that I am saying we should ignore sin. They wonder if I am advocating that we enable people in their destructive behaviors.

Please hear me clearly on this: I am not advocating enabling anyone. I am passionate about transformation . But I distinguish : There, but by the grace of God run I . I dont know what demons my neighbor is seeking to escape. I dont know what trauma or abuse she has suffered at the hands of others. I dont know how her mother created her( or more likely didnt, since much of her childhood would have been during the Khmer Rouge years ). I dont know her enough to judge her. Merely God does . So my role is simply to love and serve, and pray for change.

2. Seek to understand, rather than to magistrate

I find it SO tempting to judge.Were quick to label those we view as undeserving, use terms like Welfare Queens, dole-bludgers and layabouts. And in doing so we judge them unworthy of our love and effort.

I dont believe this type of mean-spirited attitude reflects the love of Jesus.

Instead, seek to understand what happens at an individual level to a person who is demoralized, engaging in destructive behaviors or seeking to meet their needs in unhealthy ways.

Marshall Rosenburgs work on Non-Violent Communication has revolutionized my thinking about why people behave destructively, with the simple idea that everyone has valid wants. But we dont always use healthy strategies to meet those needs.

For instance, a person who drinks themselves into a coma every day may have a valid need for companionship and healing from the pain of their life. But their strategy to meet those needs( excessive drinking) is not healthy .

Secondly, seek to understand the systemic reasons for poverty and how people end up being marginalized and shut out of the system( and thus demoralized and engaging in destructive behavior ).

For those of us from privileged backgrounds, seek to understand your privilege, so that you can then understand poverty better. Recognize that it is much easier for someone with resources to get help with an addiction or hide the problem . This is a blind-spot for most people from affluent and educated backgrounds, but its absolutely crucial that we engage in this kind of hard reasoning, or we will end up doing more damage.

3. Finally, ask the RIGHT questions

So, the question is not whether this person is deserving or undeserving. Dig beneath the surface and you quickly realize that no one, including you or me, is truly deserving. But instead, the question is this 😛 TAGEND How can I best widen Divinities love to this person today ?


What action will be the most caring and transformational in this persons life ?

These questions invite us to step away from decision and toward transformation. These questions allow us to respond with the various kinds of grace Jesus first offered to us.

One night a few weeks before my neighbours were evicted, I heard the voice of sobbing outside my front door.

I switched on the illuminates and opened the door to find my alcoholic neighbour lying shivering on the ground, sobbing and moaning. Shed had too much to drink and was nursing a swollen eye. Shed had another debate with her husband and was settling down to sleep it off outside. To top it off, she was in the advanced stages of her pregnancy.

Not a great combination.

I kneeled down beside her, trying to avoid the filth she was lying in: rats fells, litter and mud.

And I listened to her talking here her problems for a while.

She was at rock bottom, and she knew it. But she couldnt find a way out.

From almost any view, people could easily label her undeserving. The list of her sins would be almost as long as the listing of my own. But I know God doesnt assure her in those mean-spirited categories. He merely watches a beloved daughter who desperately requires love, and grace, and forgiveness, and transformation .

My calling in that moment, and in every interaction with her since, is simply to extend love and grace, and try to help her find a better pathway.

I know that Jesus can mend her and set her free.

She may not be what most folks would think of as deserving. And neither am I.

And that attains us the perfect nominees for grace.

** Such articles was originally published on Craig Greenfield’s blog. See more from Craig on his website .

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