We have some strange standards when it comes to poverty. We spend too much time trying to figure out who is worthy of help and not nearly enough time actually helping. We don't want to give them money cause they might buy drugs with it. We don't want to give them food cause they might not appreciate it enough. So we don't end up helping anyone except for the people who are just like us...
It turns out that the only ones worthy of help are either the ones who can be trusted, who can get a job, and who aren't poor at all or the glamorously poor, the ones who are so poor that they make us feel warm and fuzzy when we help them... and they only exist on TV. We only want to deal with extremes because if we're going to take the risk of helping someone, we'd better feel some sort of payoff... they'd better freaking appreciate it... otherwise I'm just going to help the people who are no risk at all.
The problem is that in America, the poverty that's right outside our front door isn't necessarily the kind of poverty where every single PB&J sandwich is like a gift from heaven. Food isn't always the biggest problem. Often it's shelter that they need and shelter is tough to offer. It's companionship that they need and that's too risky a gift to give. They need someone who cares about them and that's just too great a time commitment. At least with the starving children in Africa you can just write a check and feel good about yourself.
Loving the poor takes patience, risk, and love to invest in people who aren't like you. You have to learn to see God in the people about whom you might otherwise think unkind thoughts. It takes a commitment that can out-love the obstacles. And it takes a heart that can handle delayed gratification... sometimes very very delayed.
God, give us your heart for the poor!
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