The first glimpse I had of the poor was a rich young ruler who after confronting Jesus with how to achieve salvation walked away from His counsel sad and depressed. This example was a revelation for me and has also been a great help in discerning who the poor are that Jesus said would always be around us.
Jesus’ concern was not about the person who lacked material wealth; His concern was for those who, like the rich young ruler, lacked Spiritual wealth. He stated, “Blessed are you who are poor in the spirit,” not from the perspective of material poverty but in the position of a person who simply could not fill his heart up enough with the saving Words of Christ. From a spiritual perspective we are all bankrupt in some way and found poor, wanting, and in need of Christ’s service!
Addressing need correctly begins with an understanding of the true need in question; this is where biases and worldly advice must come to an end and Spiritual discernment must be exercised. Praying for guidance before, during, and after a calling to address need will allow the servant to walk with a good conscience and a pure heart, allowing the Spirit to lead us into service and bring us assurance we are in the correct position to serve.
In the book of Ezekiel, God calls on Ezekiel to go to His people and observe them for a period of seven days. Ezekiel was instructed not to say anything, but just to watch and take in everything he saw. God told Ezekiel there would be moments when he would want to speak out about something he saw, but in those moments God would stick his tongue to the roof of his mouth. God told Ezekiel there would come a time when he would need to address the people and at that time God would provide for him the very words to say. I have always cherished this portion of Scripture as it describes God’s guidance in leading his servant in the call to serve need.
First, we learn that God, who is sovereign in all affairs, calls upon his servant to go to His people. Too often we take the initiative to address the poor. We journey out as if we have all the answers, and have the ability to resolve every situation we come across. The truth is with this mentality and practice we are in the wrong place, dealing with the wrong people and completely out of God’s will during the whole period of service. No wonder people in need get hurt, servants grow weary and skeptical, and everyone involved falls deeper into the pit of poverty.
Second, we learn that help does not come right away. God told Ezekiel to observe His people for seven days. Is it not true that we are just as anxious as the person in need to resolve a particular problem? How can empathy be discovered; how can the real need in question be flushed out and how can God’s grace be sufficient in the situation if diligence, discernment and patience are not exercised. Symptoms are an easy fix but they are only deceptive issues; real need can only be discovered through waiting upon the Lord. Like Ezekiel, I am sure we want to point out problems immediately and if God does not shut our mouths and quench our limited knowledge of a problem dimly seen, we will cause great harm. Taking time to observe need for seven days allows for relationships to be established, empathy to manifest, truth about the real need to surface, and grace to abound.
We must ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in every broken situation, not because we know how to deal with it or fix it, but because we know WHO does! Once alongside another’s poverty, we have the eyes to see and the ability to share the Hope of Christ who alone brings the one in darkness to priceless grace of God.