Caring About the Poor
I once asked a Salvation Army officer the question, “Who are the poor?” He answered me quickly and surely. “Those who are unable to care for themselves because they lack the basic necessities of life.” “Then, what are the basic necessities?” I inquired. “Food, shelter, clothing, and work—the means of providing those things,” he replied.
Who are the poor? The poor are the majority of the two hundred thousand people that will be born today in the Third and Fourth Worlds. These are the have-not people who are multiplying with terrifying rapidity. The population explosion means that 1 billion people will go to bed hungry tonight, and fifteen thousand will not wake up tomorrow morning.
During a recent flight, as I was recording some of these facts, I noticed a smartly dressed young business executive type watching me with interest. I shared some of my findings with him, whereupon he simply shrugged his shoulders and commented, “If I saw those people in those countries doing an honest day’s work, I’d feel like they deserved helping!” His comment was all too common and showed a total ignorance of the helplessness of millions of people who would love to do an honest day’s work—if it was there to do! I asked him if work did happen to be available, as was the case in some places, did he think he could do a good job on a diet of one-half cup of rice a day? I wondered if his children could learn in schools, when they had suffered brain damage through malnutrition? So many of the developing countries have such few natural resources, technical abilities, or health facilities, it means that extreme poverty reigns supreme, and people simply are incapable of helping themselves.
Be assured, the poor are within reach. They are within reach of my prayers and concern, my pocketbook, and my energy. But it will mean a stretching and growing to accommodate the personal concern that the hand requires. Someone asked a young missionary candidate what it was going to take to alleviate the world’s needs. “Bent knees, wet eyes, and a broken heart,” was the answer. That’s what it is going to take.
The poor must have a permanent place in my thinking, planning, and actions. I am reminded of this in Is. 58:6, 7 when God tells Israel, in effect: “This is what I require of you. Loose the fetters of injustice, untie the knots of the yoke, snap every yoke and set free those that are crushed. Share your food with the hungry; take the homeless poor into your home. Clothe the naked when you meet them and never evade a duty to your kinfolk”
The challenge to Israel in the past comes to us now in the present. We must become personally responsible to find out where the poor are that we can reach, and then get on with it.
Jill Briscoe is the Founder and Executive Editor of Just Between Us magazine and ministry.