As mentioned in my last posts, justice shows up in many issues, and on the mission field in a variety of ways. Of course, one of those justice issues is what to do with the poor. Those who want to justify greed always quote Jesus, “The poor you always have with you.” But Jesus also said, “Give to him that asks of you, and don’t turn away someone who wants a loan from you.”
This is another issue for Caregivers, because many workers come to our Oases emotionally stressed because they live with and face the poor in their ministry communities every waking minute. What an emotionally “wearing out” situation.
- When to give?
- What to give?
- When not to give?
- How to give?
- Are our efforts making any positive dent in the tragic, negative situation?
- Do we make this a gift to them, or should it be a loan?
Jesus wants us to be generous. “Give to him who asks, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow.” (Mt 5:42) So as Caregivers, eagerly helping Christian workers gain strength for their ministries, we also need to be in their shoes on the poverty and giving side — the shoes of the emotional wrestling with providing our resources to the poor and how that should go.
And since Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you,” it doesn’t take too much effort to identify the poor in any situation — even in an affluent one!
Sheri and I were involved with a poor couple several years ago who both had felony records, had somewhat disabled their minds and bodies through meth use. They needed someone to come alongside them and practically help and encourage them. We met shortly after they spent a year living under a bridge in a large city.
They had trouble landing a job, getting a driver’s license, and finding a place to live because they were “felons.” This became a “justice” issue for me because they both served their time in jail, completed parole, and yet that legal record dogged their tracks. That legal designation, (you are a felon) kept knocking them down, discouraging them, and creating depression. Hope for the future was taken because they made a mistake in the past, yet paid their dues to society and were now beyond that practically. Is it “just” in our American society to hold them captive to mistakes made and paid for? That’s surely not a Gospel way.
There were times this couple would come to us for a “loan.” We struggled with this because we knew their financial situation and how difficult it would be to pay this back. Ultimately Sheri and I would ask ourselves if we could afford to give the money, and if so, we made it a gift rather than a “loan.” That saved a burden on each of us. But because we have limited resources; family members who need help periodically as well; and things we want to purchase and provide for ourselves, we wrestle over this concept Jesus expresses above.