Making Our World a Better Place
“If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother. But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.” (Deuteronomy 15:7-8)
I came across this verse today and wondered — do I do enough??? I am one of those who has always wanted to help everyone in need, but that is obviously not possible. But in spite of my heart that teaches me to give regularly, lately, I find myself growing increasingly skeptical in discerning who is truly in ‘NEED’.
For example, this past Christmas, I saw people asking for help everywhere. They were posts on Facebook, in the local paper, on Used and Kijiji sites, as well as requests during conversations with friends. Sadly, most of those asking for help were people who didn’t really need it. I’m not mean in making this assessment. In one particular case, I know of a family with an amazing sob story. As a consequence, this family received hundreds of dollars. I actually know this family and despite the story having some level of truth, they were not truly in need.
Another girl I know accepted money for her son’s health care costs. The problem was her son wasn’t as seriously sick as she claimed. Even her expenses were false. Another family had money to drink, smoke and party regularly. Both parents work full time, but still managed to find a story that encouraged some really nice people help them out financially.
These stories are not uncommon, especially with money being tight and the economy (at least here) experiencing some noticeable decline. So, how do I reconcile what I am seeing even in my own circle of extended friends with a Bible verse that encourages me to help others. Coming to terms with the two wasn’t easy. In fact, it took considerable consideration. Still, this is what I concluded.
I feel this verse in Deuteronomy 15 is about helping the people we don’t see or hear asking for help. I’m sure everyone knows a family or two that is struggling. This past year, in fact, I’ve helped out a few families. One is a mom who had to travel hours to get her child in for dental surgery. This same child was also going through chemo treatments which left the family with little money. The mother never asked for anything except for love and prayers for her daughter. I am happy to say her daughter is now in remission. I helped another friend buy groceries for her aunt (anonymously) who had been fighting cancer for over a year. I helped another family by hooking the mom up with a job that takes very little time BUT the extra financial burden of making household commitments is lifted.
On a different level, I throw my change in buckets at the grocery store when local teams bag groceries. I buy 50/50 tickets at the small arena rinks we play in — knowing that if I win I will let the team sponsoring the 50/50 keep the money. It might only be a couple of dollars spent purchasing a chocolate bar, or tickets on a basket to help the local school get a new playground but each little contribution helps my community. Every penny, nickel or loonie eases a financial burden for someone.
Having alluded to some of my own examples of giving, this is what I believe this verse means. I believe it is about doing what we can do to help each other, that will in turn make our communities a better place for everyone. Therefore, giving does not have to be a huge donation. Neither should a donation be used as a means for getting recognition from one’s peers. What it should be is a donation from one’s heart — something that I want to do to help another because the Lord has blessed me.
I admit that deciding to give and to whom is not always easy because again, in my heart, I want to help everyone. But there are also days when my household commitments have used up any extra funds that I would have used to donate. So, if there are days that I can’t give financially, for whatever reason, then I make extra meals and desserts for families that I know could use a helping hand. If this stretches my own resources, then I willingly donate myself. My grandpa had a saying that he always used in his blog. It encouraged people to “Stand in the Offering Plate.”
Indeed, there are numerous benefits to just giving oneself. As a parent who has helped my son’s hockey team bag groceries the last two Sundays, I had yet another opportunity to personally see how people help each other in my community. What have I learned? Each time we do something to ease a person’s burden, we make a real impact on real people. If we choose to help a family struggling to make ends meet but working hard nevertheless — even if it is just a few extra dollars for groceries — you have the power to change that family (and everyone in it) for the better.
Recognize too that in whatever situation comes your way, it’s easy to extend a smile, offer a coffee, or give a hug to a child who needs you. God asks us to help those individuals and families that are truly in need. Me? I can tell you firsthand that even my little bits of help (that must seem very small in comparison to other larger donations) has always made a significant heartwarming difference for real people in need.