"She extends her hand to the poor,
Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy." Proverbs 31:20
I had a wonderful conversation with a friend this past weekend that has been on my mind ever since. We were talking about how we (the church as a whole) give to the needy and try to take care of those in need. It really was a remarkable conversation, that as we talked, it made such amazing sense to me, and I'm wondering what to do with it.
We were discussing how, as consumers and people, we take the things that we don't need or want anymore, and we donate them, because perhaps there is someone needy who could use them. Our used and unwanted stuff. Just think about that for a second... there is a big point here to make. Think about those bath towels that are ragged around the edges- have a hole or two, and maybe they simply are not fluffy and cozy anymore. We could throw them out, we won't be using them, but instead we think that maybe we'll bless a shelter by donating them there.
Really? We're blessing someone with our unwanted garbage?
Now, I get this, I really do. As consumers we throw away too much stuff, and when we pass something on there's a chance someone else will get good use out of it. I have plenty of secondhand things that I've found great use for- curtains, dish wares, clothing, etc.
But when we're following scriptural instructions and showing love to those who are truly in need, why is it that they get the things we don't want anyway?
When the food drive boys show up at the door, why is it that we quickly fill that little plastic bag with things from the back of the pantry? We grab all those cans and jars and bottles of things that we bought months ago, that we don't really want anymore- maybe some of those are expired even. We don't give them the brand new stuff that we just bought the other day...why?
When we, the church, are showing love to those who really need it, we need to stop giving them our leftovers, and start giving them the very best. That's how we show the love of God to them! We can't say God loves you and then hand them a few cans of expired baked beans! We need to hand them the fixings for a steak dinner- including the ice cream for dessert.
This applies to all areas of giving to the needy. It used to be, when we would walk out of a store, and there would be someone there collecting for an organization of any kind, I would rifle through my change and give the kids a few nickles and dimes to drop in the bucket. Admittedly, I used to be the one to walk right past and not give anything, but my children convicted me of that one... so now, I open up my wallet and hand the kids each a dollar bill. Every time. (Unless, of course, I don't have any.) My children get to see the example of giving- and maybe one of these days we'll increase that even more to larger bills, because God loves those people who need the money being donated, and He wants us to make our best efforts to help them out. Think about how much change needs to be collected in order to buy a family of four a turkey dinner. If we all just purposed to give even one dollar in those cases, it would add up so much more quickly.
God's love should equal the very best we can. Our food pantries should be filled with name-brand top shelf food items. When someone in need comes to us, with their hungry kids in arms, our first thought should absolutely not be one of... gee, what can my family do without... when those people come to us, our first thought should be to take them to the grocery store and fill a shopping cart or two for them. Do they need soap? Clothing? Medicines? Gas for their car? Every step of the way, we should be giving them the very best that we can.
When I think about that Proverbs 31 woman, you know what when she raised her hand to help the needy, she did not give them the clothing that her servants had discarded. She gave them the best she had- and sometimes, I wonder if that meant the very robe from her back.
God's love. God's love is the best thing there is, and for some people, their first taste of the love of God is in a handout from God's people. That handout should reflect the love that the Father has for them. When we reach out our hands towards those in need, we should be loving them with everything we've got, because we are the reflection of God in their lives. God loves those in need so much, that He brings them to us- to give us the opportunity to love on them. So let's love them, and let's stop using the needy as our garbage and recycling center.