“Can you spare some change?” The middle-aged woman hovered as soon as I slid into the worn seat of my pick-up truck. She and her husband glowed with health, wore neat outfits that paid homage to the nearby Western store, and the wife’s hair reflected care and color in a beauty salon. The couple had stepped out of a snappy Dodge double-cab pick-up truck with four-wheel drive. The price of their wheels would feed an American family of four every day for three years.
Change just might be the answer!
How about we change vehicles? What an idea! I liked it!
Like others pleading for help at parking lots or gas stations, these shared a common denominator: their vehicles were so new that by comparison, mine looked like it should be in Saturday’s demolition derby.
So many requests had come in over the last month by phone and in person that I wondered if I might have been marked while I slept by an admirer. Had someone played connect the dots between my age spots? The message seemed clear to many: “Ask me for money.”
Even though I had turned all the requests down, I confided my concern in a long-time, close friend. “Are people were seeing something I’m not – like words written on my forehead in invisible ink?”
“No,” she told me. “You just have a soft heart.”
Jesus himself said, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.” [Mark 14:7 NIV]
In a number of countries where this blog is read, a car—any car—is a privilege.
Were the Dodge owners poor? Hardly. How they ended up in this position–whether over their head in payments or because of job loss–American financial guru Dave Ramsey would have advised them to sell the truck and buy a cheaper vehicle.
Helping others, showing them love, and lifting the poor is good for the soul. There are times that situations arise when many need help. When a raging forest fire nearby forced evacuation of about 30,000 people, the residents’ needs were met. Surrounding community members pulled together to offer meals, lodging, clothes, and animal care. Not to come to someone’s aide when they are in desperate need would be turning a back to God.
Jesus himself tells in this word story, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” [Matthew 25:37-40.]
But also, Jesus would advise helpers to use discernment.
When you, a group, or an organization has helped the same people numerous times, plus you or someone else has taught them how to help themselves but nothing changes, cut them loose! There is a time for a stand – for you and them. To continue to give, you are only encouraging them to be dependent. They will choose, too. Either they will find another source or they will learn to solve their own problems. You can guess which choice will build character.
When the next person asks you for “change,” think about the change that would help them the most. Show them how.
[Jo Russell is a Christian teacher, speaker, author of many articles, contributor to several anthologies, and Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women, Intermedia Publishing 2011. For more chuckles and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog on www.button-to-god.com.]