“He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:34).
What is the contemporary interpretation of “giving to those who are in need?”
As Christians, we often hear that God is calling us to give to those who are less fortunate than ourselves. For instance, Jesus stated, “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). Nevertheless, what does Jesus mean when he referred to “the least of these brothers and sisters of mine?” Most time, we interpret this to mean to give capital to the poor, yet, maybe it means more than that. After all, those who are in poverty, while certainly facing a very burdensome obstacle, were not the only ones who Jesus called us to help and certainly not the only ones he helped. In fact, Jesus helped a far larger group of people known as humankind when he died on the cross to pay the price for all our sins. In fact, the most famous verse noted, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever shall believe in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). If Jesus came to Earth to help all of humankind, can we really limit helping the “least of these” to just those whose suffering we can see? Or should we expand our idea of helping “those in need” to be something more?
What other “in need” groups did Jesus call us to help?
Jesus helped and called us to help through his actions and teachings many “in need” people beyond those who were facing economic hardships. For instance, Jesus advocated to help those “in need” by viewing everyone as equally worthy of God’s gift- even those who have regretted their past actions and have been ostracized for them. This was best exemplified in a retort Jesus made after Simon had criticized Jesus for letting a “sinful woman” clean his feet (Luke 7:39). Jesus retorted, “I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47).
Another example of Jesus’ unconditional love for people, with a “rougher” past than most, was when he told the Parable of the Lost Son. In the parable, a son had asked his father for his half of the estate with which he squandered away on many worldly things to the point where he had to rent himself out to wage labor and lived in poverty as a result (Luke 15:11-16). The son eventually realized that his only shot at escaping poverty was to become a servant of his dad’s (Luke 15:17-20). Yet, when he returned to beg for forgiveness and for a position under his father as a servant, his father came out to embrace him and threw a major party to celebrate his return. When his brother, who was always loyal to his father, became angry at his father for giving the prodigal son a second chance, the father stated, “My son... you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:31-32).
Why is helping those “in need” who inflicted their own pain upon themselves through their own actions so important?
Jesus has called us to help everyone by forgiving those who have been outcast by the rest of society, by forgiving those who are hard to forgive, and by realizing that who a person is lines up with who they are rather than who they were. While helping those in need economically is very important, we must realize that doing so is only half of the story. Both people’s visible and invisible pain should be something that we, as Christians, should try our best to address. Many people feel as if their past is a burden which they will never escape, and we should try to give them the capital of forgiveness, of second chances, to help them overcome such bearings on their temporary life and eternal soul.
How can we, as Simple Charity, expand our mission of providing capital beyond that which is solely monetary?
Simple Charity’s mission statement to “help Christians practice solidarity with the global poor” is one which we tend to align with those who are monetarily impoverished and extremely impoverished. Yet, the “poor” can include those whose mental health is suffering, those who spiritual health is suffering, those whose physical health are suffering. Most times, all of us can fit into at least one of these categories, and that is okay. It does not mean that we are not able to help others overcome their individual challenges, nor does it mean the ways in which we are suffering should be considered invalid. Rather, it means that we should work together in a way in which we use our strengths to help others overcome their weaknesses and be vulnerable enough to allow others to help us in that same way. While Simple Charity must continue raising money for those thousands of miles away in countries with vast economic problems, we must also help those who are within our own Simple Charity community through our own words and actions. For, it is noted, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). So, at your next fundraiser, remember to strike intentional conversations, be joyful and personable, and be yourself towards those who are nearest to you!