When I travel to New Orleans, there’s a certain homeless person I like to say hello to. He always makes me smile and he never asks me for anything. He’ll say, “It ain’t gonna cost you nothing to come say hello. I ain’t gonna rob you!” I then walk over and say hello and he puts a smile on my face. Except on a recent trip he called me over and said, “You know I never ask for nothing, but could you go in there and buy me an orange juice and sandwich? I’m about to curl up on my cardboard and I’m hungry.”
When I handed him his dinner, he hugged me and thanked me. He then asked, “You know what I’d change about the world?” My mind began to think of any number of answers. No more homelessness. No more hunger. No more devaluing people. No more selfishness. But before I could decide on an answer, he grabbed my shoulder, looked up at the sky, smiled a big toothless grin, and said, “Absolutely nothing!” He laughed, thanked me again and walked away.
I thought about his answer as I walked back to my hotel. Here’s a man, for whatever reason, is sleeping on a cardboard mat on the streets of downtown New Orleans and is exposed to the elements constantly, and he wouldn’t change a thing. Even though he has absolutely nothing to his name, he has found a way to be content. He’s learned to choose joy instead of bitterness over his situation. It’s a lesson we all could learn.
Paul learned that secret and told us about it in Philippians 4:12. He said, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little” (NLT). That secret is choosing the joy of contentment with where God has you. That joy gives us the strength to endure whatever comes our way. It takes us from being a victim of life to a victor over our situation. Don’t try to change your world. Change your attitude. The next verse tells us we can. “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
Much of Jesus’ ministry was directed to the poor and the helpless. The Early Church followed His example. When the met with Paul, they recommended that he remember the poor. They even created a group of seven individuals to make sure to feed the widows so they could continue to preach the Gospel. They never wanted to sacrifice people for the ministry, nor did they want to sacrifice the ministry for the people. They understood that the Gospel is all about giving of yourself to other people, so they did all they could to find the balance in helping people spiritually and physically.
Today, we still have the poor with us, but helping them isn’t always at the front of our minds or ministry. Nearly 3/4 of the population of earth lives on less than $10 a day. Millions of people in these poor countries are offered jobs, but when they show up, they are captured and are forced into the sex trade. Christine Caine’s A21 organization is one of the leaders trying to stop this. There are other organizations as well like Daughters of Cambodia. I have friends who are out right now trying to raise awareness of the sex trade there and are working to create one in the Philippines. Some are working to eradicate the orphan crisis, and others the homeless crisis. What are we doing to for our part as individuals? We must return to our spiritual roots, take the blinders off our eyes and remember to help the poor once again.
Here are some Bible verses on helping the poor.
1. God always blesses those who are kind to the poor and helpless. They’re the first ones God helps when they find themselves in any trouble.
Psalms 41:1 TPT
2. Give your love of justice to the king, O God, and righteousness to the king’s son. Help him to defend the poor, to rescue the children of the needy, and to crush their oppressors.
Psalms 72:1, 4 NLT
3. In everything I showed you [by example] that by working hard in this way you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, “It is more blessed [and brings greater joy] to give than to receive. ”
ACTS 20:35 AMP
4. Happy are those who are concerned for the poor; the Lord will help them when they are in trouble.
Psalm 41:1 GNT
5. God’s righteous people will pour themselves out for the poor, but the ungodly make no attempt to understand or help the needy.
For the second half of my childhood, my family’s economic situation changed for the worse. For a while, we had to move out of our home and into a trailer that a lady at church owned. Instead of getting to go to the store for new clothes, I got to go through bags of hand-me-downs. We went to the store’s clearance section for canned goods that were missing labels. Mom would make what she called “supper surprise” because no one knew what we were going to eat until we opened the can. Through the years, we never went without though. People brought us groceries, furniture and cars when we needed them. God always provided.
I often think of Matthew 25:34-40 when I think of that period in my life. Jesus was talking about Heaven and He told the righteous people that they were welcome in because when He was hungry, they fed Him. When He was thirsty, they gave Him something to drink. When He was naked, they clothed Him. They didn’t understand that when they helped someone in need, they were doing to Him. I often pray that God would continue to open the windows of Heaven and bless the people who helped us during that period. Whether they knew it or not, they were giving to the Lord.
Proverbs 19:17 puts it this way, “Every time you give to the poor you make a loan to the Lord. Don’t worry—you’ll be repaid in full for all the good you’ve done” (TPT). Whether God repays you in this life or the next, He will bless you for giving to those who need your help. Part of being a Christian is having a heart full of compassion on the least of these. We often make excuses why we can’t give to people in need or we look away, but the truth is you’re not giving to that person or family. You’re doing it to the Lord. He repays us for caring for the poor, the underprivileged, the homeless and the prisoner. He didn’t ask if we thought it was their fault or not they were in that situation. He simply said, “When you’ve done it to the least of these, you’ve done it unto me.”
I love hidden camera shows. I enjoy watching different people’s reaction to the same event. I think people are more themselves when they don’t know a camera is rolling. Usually when I think of hidden camera shows, it involves doing something funny or messes with the mind of the unsuspecting person. But I saw one recently where a guy used a hidden camera to capture how people treated him disguised as a homeless man asking for money. As you would expect, he was mainly ignored. Some told him to get a job. Then there were those who gave.
What they didn’t know was that he wasn’t homeless and that he had a surprise for them. When they gave, he thanked them, then gave them their money back and then a $20 bill on top of it. It was touching to watch their reactions when he blessed them back. One lady asked, “Why?” He looked at her, smiled and said, “Because you deserve it.” She quickly replied, “No I don’t.” He insisted she take it because he wanted to help out the givers.
It reminded me of Proverbs 3:27. It says, “Never walk away from someone who needs help; your hand is God’s hand for that person (MSG).” I couldn’t help but to think of not just homeless people who have needed my help, but others who have and I walked away with the ability to help, but not the will. So many times God places people in our path to see how we will react when we think no one is watching. We forget that He always watches us and that all we have is his anyway. He’s just looking to see if we are willing to let go of what’s not even ours to give to someone who needs it more than we do.
I’ve learned to ask God each day to show me the people He puts in path that need my help. I’ve started to carry a little cash that I can give if called upon by God. I want to be prepared to be the hand of God to those people God instructs me to give to. If I never plan or prepare to give, it will never happen. If it never happens, I not only miss out on blessings, but the people who were counting on God to meet their needs can begin to lose faith. Our obedience (or disobedience) always has consequences. We can be the reason for hope in the lives of others if only we were willing to look past how things appear on the surface.
In your prayer time today, ask God to show you who needs your help. Ask Him to let you be His hands to someone in need. You may say, “But I’m one of those people in need.” There’s always someone whom you can help. There’s always someone who is worse off than you are. Be willing to be obedient and to help them and watch how God blesses you. When we give sacrificially, God is bound by a promise to open up the windows of Heaven and pour out blessings you can’t contain. Whether you have a little or a lot, it belongs to God anyway. Go be His hands today.