Prayer, Presence, Personalizing, Partnering, (yes, Greg, the Pastor in me got carried away with the P’s.) In reality, though, while these form the foundation for caring for the poor, true caring does not continue to take place for two reasons. The first is that we as human beings are by nature selfish and would rather talk about caring for the poor than actually doing it. In response, I refer you back to step one: Prayer. We all need to examine our hearts for those selfish attitudes, repent of them, and pray that God would change our hearts and give us a compassion for the poor.
There is a second reason–It’s hard. One of my favorite books is by Steve Fikkert, When Helping Hurts. In that book he reveals that often the good that we think we are doing is actually harmful to those we desire to help, which makes the job of helping even harder. Even when we think we are helpful we may be harmful! And, to complicate issues even more, there is no simple answer to helping the poor. Sometimes when we try to help someone we realize that they do not want our help, may not need our help, or simply throw our help back in our face! Helping the poor is not an overnight process but an ongoing, frustratingly painful process. Hmm, almost sounds like the Christian life and the process of sanctification.
We do not expect perfection in ourselves overnight, but we often expect the poor to be helped in a few hours. This is not realistic or Biblical. Helping the poor is a lifelong endeavor. As Jesus said, you will always have the poor. That’s the reality. There will always be poor people in need of helping. But, rather than throwing our hands up in the air after a week, we need to realize that Christ continues to work in us, and with that grace in mind we must persevere in our efforts to help the helpless. Does this guarantee results? No. But it does mean that we are continuing to seek out those who need help. Perseverance means continuing despite set backs, despite frustration and wanting to quit. Perseverance understands the reality of working with people…sinful, messy broken people. People who have problems. Just like us. It may not get any easier, any simpler, and more successful, but our calling to help the poor will keep on keeping on in that endeavor all the same.