Lending A Hand
“He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done” —Proverbs 19:17, NIV.
One of the subjects that frequently came up for discussion among our people in Venezuela was how to respond to the poor begging for money at so many of the intersections throughout the city. The topic wasn’t whether or not to help them, but which ones were genuinely in need.
I always remembered the story told by a colleague of her experience while she was at language school in Costa Rica. It was pouring rain the night the knock came to the door of her house. When she opened the door, a bedraggled woman dressed in tattered clothes stood in the doorway. She was soaking wet and clutching a baby in her arms. There was another small child clinging to her skirts. She told my friend her sad story and asked for any kind of help that she could give her. How could my friend refuse?
She gave the woman some money for which she was profusely thanked. After the woman had gone something prompted my friend to look out her living room window. As she looked down the driveway toward the street, she was startled to see the woman and the children climb into the back seat of a late-model Mercedes.
I’ve heard similar stories since.
We all know that there are abusers of the system, unscrupulous people who take advantage of the generosity of others, and who steal from the poor and destitute to make themselves rich. Sometimes those kinds of revelations make us cynical and give a hard edge to our hearts when it comes to helping those in genuine need.
In Venezuela we used to talk about ways we could give without being taken advantage of. Many of the ladies carried bags of non-perishables in their cars. When they were stopped at a red light and a beggar came up to the window, they would give him or her a bag of food rather than money. We encouraged the ladies to give even though there would be times when that generosity would be abused.
Our church used to have an arrangement with a local restaurant. Anyone coming to the church looking for help would be given a food voucher. Now we have a food bank which also serves a meal once a week, coordinating our efforts with other agencies in the city.
With all the disasters across our world for which appeals for money are made, often the first question that comes to our minds is not the need itself, but whether or not the money we give will get to the people who need it. It’s smart to investigate the organizations we give to. It’s wise to know what their administration costs are, how much of every dollar stays at home. But the last thing we should do as believers is to stop giving to those in need. It’s a Biblical principle and we know from Scripture that our generosity doesn’t escape God’s notice. I love the phrase in today’s verse that reminds me that whatever I give to someone in need is “lent” to the Lord. He will reward us for even a cup of water given in His name.