Posted by: gmscan | March 4, 2011

Serving the Poor

Christ’s admonition to serve the poor is as important today as ever. Yet the meaning of “poor” has changed. Today, the secular society has largely taken care of the material needs of people with low incomes, at least in the United States. It is incomplete and it misses the emotional and spiritual components of Christian charity. Food stamps are an empty substitute for compassion and love. The welfare department doesn’t love its clients, nor does it really “serve” them. It is impersonal and cold, treating families as a caseload, not as God’s children.

But such programs have largely succeeded in alleviating most of the physical deprivation of the poor in Christ’s time.

The poor of 21st Century America are a different breed with different needs. Needs that are well-suited to the church.

These are the poor in spirit. They are those who feel alone and unloved, even when their incomes may be adequate. They are those who are broken due to mental illness or addictions. They are those who have followed false gods of fame, money, sex, or fashion and end up feeling hollow and unsatisfied.

They are hungry, but not for food. They are hungry for meaning, for fellowship, for enlightenment – all qualities that only God working through his church can provide.

It is hard to reach these people. They are not pleasant to be around. They are often selfish and narcissistic. Or they may be self-pitying and depressed. Their needs are internal and not evident to an outsider. They take advantage of kindness and give nothing in return.

Our mistake is to think that we can heal them. Only God can do that. The most we can do is proclaim the Gospel without judgment, and pray they accept the gift of faith God is offering.

Jesus told the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks of this water (from the well) will be thirty again, but whoever drinks of the water I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-15)

Which kind of water are we offering to today’s poor?



  1. Greg:
    I agree with you that the qualities people yearn for can only be provided by God working through his church.
    This is because we are in partnership with God, and for God’s love to be most effective, that partnership needs to be shared with others.
    I look forward to every Sabbath day when I can sing and pray among my fellow Jewish congregants.
    We strengthen ourselves and one another.
    There is a vitality, in a group, expressing our praises and thankfulness to God.
    I look forward to the rabbi’s interpretation of the weekly Torah portion.
    I look forward to our Shabbat lunch, in which further discussion, questions, and comments, take place.
    I walk out of the synagogue, encouraged and refreshed.
    And, while the feelings seem to come and go, I know that the Sabbath is indeed, coming.
    I feel like I am in a holy place, and that the goal is to carry that holiness, forward, in the secular world.

    • Thank you, Don, for a beautiful testimony. Some of us are doing a weekly teleconference with an hassidic rabbi in Israel. He is walking us through the Torah, and it is fascinating to get a Jewish perspective on the Holy Book.


  2. Greg:
    That is really neat.
    If he is anything like my chasidic rabbi at Chabad, he will provide commentary on the white spces between the Hebrew letters, where a lot of mystery and mysticism is revealed.
    Chasidic Jews recognize the legitimacy of the oral Torah as commentary on the written Torah. The Oral Torah being such texts as the Kaballah, the Mishnah, The Talmud, and various sages whose commentaries have stood the test of time.

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