May 11, 2018
Ten million families in the Philippines consider themselves poor, according to the 2018 report of the Social Weather Stations. Whether we walk these city streets or ride on public transportation, we see their faces in the long trail of informal settlers by the riverbanks, and their eyes bear witness to the evidence of their shame.
The book “The Church and Poverty in Asia” defines shame as an emotion that has to do with exposure, making one feel embarrassed, or worse, humiliated; it highlights how a person seems to be out of step, different from everyone else, and possibly unwelcome. People who experience shame because they lack food, money, or shelter, have to swallow their shame and become vulnerable to others to get what they lack. Others stay out of sight, knowing that exposure may result in abuse or humiliation.
The question I’d like to pose to you today is: How do we see the poor? As children of God, how do we view the impoverished and weak in our society? We know the numbers, we look briefly at them every day, and we try to overcome the sorrow in our hearts by uttering a short prayer whenever we see them. But is that all we can do? By looking or staying away from the poor, might we be missing something of and from God?
As followers of Christ, do we really neglect His command to care for the poor when we turn a blind eye to those on the streets? Just recently, as I was walking along a Pasig City street, I realized I instantly looked away when I made eye contact with a beggar. I looked around and saw everyone was looking away. Why could this be? Might it be because we know deep in our hearts, we know how Jesus wants us to act to meet the needs of the less fortunate?
In Matthew 25:31-40, Jesus reveals that whatever we do for one of the least of his brothers and sisters in need, we do it for Him. Seeing Jesus in the eyes of the poor and needy compels us to actively do something for them. Giving is one of the most powerful acts we can do, becoming good Samaritans to those in need. Here are some biblical perspectives on giving:
He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
For special occasions, on purpose, some people will invite people who they know will invite them back when their special occasions come about. Many of us have that same perspective when it comes to giving. It’s easy for us to give to someone who can give back: a friend who is about to get his allowance from his parents, a rich relative who came from abroad, the teacher who can give you high grades in return. But in this passage, Jesus clearly states we need to prioritize to bless: those who cannot repay. Have we ever thought of giving something to the street vendors, street sweepers, and poor beggars who can never pay us back? Do we help anyone who simply cannot repay
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.
Proverbs 19:17 (NIV)
The Lord didn’t assign us to judge how the poor will use the money they’re given; He will not reward us for correctly choosing the poor people whom we want to bless. What He wants is for us to be kind to others. How do we extend God’s kindness to our loved ones? We surprise them with their favorite drink or meal; we spend time with them; we appreciate them and lift up their spirits when they are down; we pray for them and we tell them about the loving kindness of our Lord Jesus.
And so, when we see our Badjao and Igorot brothers and sisters begging inside jeepneys on our way to school or the homeless grandmas and grandpas on the street, let us not judge as if they are part of a drug syndicate or they are unworthy of our pennies. Our main goal is to extend the same kindness we can give to our loved ones. We never know just how much our good deeds bring hope and joy in their daily struggles.
You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, you shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.
Deuteronomy 15:10, 11
From the time of Moses and the Israelites to this day, there has always been poor and needy living in our midst. And our God didn’t just request us to be generous to them, but He commanded us to bless without a grudging heart. Giving wholeheartedly means we trust in the Lord that despite our lack, He would use us to be a blessing to others. On the other hand, giving with a grudging heart is unwillingly giving what God has blessed us to give to others. A selfish man with a grudging heart will always find it hard to open his hand to those in need, and we must remember how we cannot fool God because He sees our hearts and our motives.
If we are found faithful and obedient to His command, God promises to bless us along with all the works of our hands. He will prosper us because we become conduits of His blessings in providing for the poor.], just as He has promised them from long ago.
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.
Proverbs 3:27, 28
Have you ever said these words to a hungry boy as he asked for a few of your coins:
“Pasensya na, wala akong pera e.”
“Wala e, next time na lang.”
A few pesos can alleviate someone’s hunger. We’ve been richly blessed to have three meals a day. But some haven’t eaten for days. Let us be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit when poor and needy approach us. Let us not dismiss them right away without asking God how He wants us to respond.
BECAUSE AT THE END OF THE DAY…
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.
Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.
Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.
God repeatedly promises blessings to those who will step out in faith and share what they limitedly have to those in need. In fact, He didn’t just say we will be blessed but He also said that we would never be in lack. This is the wonderful gift God has given to His children: that we may partake in His love for the poor and the needy. Through us, the world will see His omnipotence and generosity. And it also brings us to the fact that we can truly never outgive God.
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
1 John 3:17, 18
The greatest act of God’s love is when He gave His one and only Son to die for our sins so that we can be reconciled to Him. Now, we have been given the power to do the same in giving out His love to others by being His hands and feet and attend to the needs of the poor and weak. Again, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.