Friday, November 11, 2005

Helping the Poor

Well, after that slight diversion into Pat Robertson country (fun place, ain’t it?), here’s the real blog for today.

My church is holding a “Poverty Seminar” on Saturday to get some information about the problem of poverty and explore ways that we as Christians can assist in that. I think it’s a valuable pursuit and I’m looking forward to being a part of it.

Here’s the question and I’m really not sure how the answer to this goes:

I completely agree that Christians have an obligation to the poor and to help those less fortunate, but what form should that take? I have a real issue with the image of the rich suburban church striding in triumphantly to help the poor urban folk. How do we help people that are poor without marginalizing them simply by helping them? Can we offer assistance without that being an insult in and of itself? Does it have to be more that “paratrooper help,” i.e. dropping in and getting out? Does it require building credibility slowly and convincing people we really care about them and not just about doing a “ministry”?

I’m looking for really concrete ideas out of this.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Phil, if you get a chance, check out a new show on A&E called "Random 1".

One way to help the poor without all the baggage you've mentioned here is to pick someone in your city and get involved in their life over an extended period of time. By the way, it will be profoundly unrewarding, so don't expect that high you get from helping someone.

Shawn

Amanda said...

Another question that really needs to be answered is the question on the other end of the spectrum: when does it go out of the relm of "helping" and "ministry" and into the realm of "enabling?"

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, the great Christian cop out..."enabling". Why should I give the homeless guy $5 when I know he's just going to buy liquor with it?

No gift can be given without moral conditions being place on it. If you're afraid of enabling, take him to rehab and visit him there every week. Give him your home phone number and tell him to call you ANY time. Put him in touch with someone who specializes in giving people jobs who need a second chance.

Shawn

Tony Arnold said...

Phil,

One question we must ask is if all we do is tranfer our materialism to those without it, do we not risk damning them; spreading our own traps of health and wealth and materialsim into their lives?

But to address Shawn's concerns in this argument, Christians must not only help, and help first and foremost, we must also work to provide a foundation for understanding Christ, His message, and our true identity in Him. Reference Mere Discipleship and the Rwandan example: converted Christians killing converted Christians, because the evangilists didn't convert them to the full identity of Christ.

We must empower the world with the love and understanding of Christ along with our material and physical aid. But this may be very difficult to do, when the Church itself does not understand it.

Tony

Phil said...

Shawn, your first comment really brings to mind the hard work of the Kingdom and that it's not just dropping in and dropping out.

You're absolutely right about not expecting the "high" as well. As a follower of Christ, I should expect to be disappointed in people as well as hurt and taken advantage of. It simply will happen, but that shouldn't stop us from doing the work of the Kingdom.

Amanda, I think you ask a good question as well. My thought has always been that I cannot determine what someone will do with a gift I give in good faith. Let's say I give someone a knife set for Christmas. If they kill someone with that gift, that is not my issue.

I feel the same way about money given. If I give a homeless man money for medicine (actual incident with someone I ran into on the street from Room in the Inn) and then he uses it for booze, I can't control that.

But that's where I marry your response and Shawn's response. I think it has to involve getting into the dirt and grime of people's lives so that when I give that money or time or resources, I can help them use those resources properly.

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