“If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.” Proverbs 21:13 NIV or as the Message phrases it, “If you stop your ears to the cries of the poor, your cries will go unheard, unanswered.”
If you have been around church for any length of time you have inevitably been asked to bring food for the food bank, gather change to give to a mission, asked to respond to a crisis in your own city or around the world. We are called to be a people who care for their fellow man. We are called to love God and love others.
Those words seem so simplistic at first read, but when you get down to it we have a hard time living into this command from Jesus. Our own judgments, preconceived notions of who is worthy or not worthy of help, what we believe God really thinks of a person’s actions or choices, all get in the way of us just loving others. We muddy the waters of what God has asked us to do. We end up justifying our actions by appearances and forget that God always knows our motives (Proverbs 21:2).
To be honest I think our caring for others in its purest form happens when we are children. Children don’t have a motive past, God told me to help others. They don’t begin to start rationalizing and grading worthiness until later on after some life experience.
My 11 year old has always been very in tune with the needs of her fellow humans. We were in Dallas, TX for a family wedding in 2016. We were walking downtown around our hotel with extended family, when a woman who was experiencing homelessness approached me to ask for money. Our extended family kept walking but she stopped me and my daughter, and introduced herself. Her name was Linda. She told us that she knew it was against the law for her to approach us for money, but she was hungry. You see every Saturday local churches would come down to the library and hand out food to those in the city that were in need. This particular Saturday there was a protest going on and the food distribution could not happen. I did not have any cash to give her and I told her I was sorry. She turned to go and I took my daughter’s hand and started to try and catch up to our family. My daughter would not move. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “We need to buy her food now.” God through my daughter’s innocent demand spoke to me and I could not shut my ears to Linda’s cry. My motive was muddied. I didn’t have cash but I had money, God and my daughter knew that and called me out. My daughter called out to Linda, we asked if we could take her shopping at the corner convenience store a couple of blocks away, she gladly went with us and we were able to help her. She bought things she could share with her friends. We still wonder how Linda is doing and pray for her to this day.
Fast forward to last night sitting at an intersection on Wrightsboro Rd. in our car. We see a man with a sign walking up and down asking for money. My daughter looks at me and says, “Do you have any cash?” I said, “Grab my purse.” After we offered him the help we could she asked me, “Mom I know that not everyone who says they are in need are really in need, how do you decide who you should help?” I reminded her of our encounter with Linda and said, “I believe if we keep our ears tuned in and our hearts open, like you did for Linda, that God lets us know.”
I encourage you as you pray with Proverbs 21 today that you keep your ears open to the cry of the one in need. Pray for God to lift any barrier you may have to leaning into the commandment to love God and love others this week. Ask God to guide you to opportunities where you can help someone in need this week.