Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.
After enduring over 10 years with a dismal economy, many Americans today find themselves in perilous positions far exceeding anything they could have imagined. The middle class is quickly shrinking, leaving a fractured nation that is increasingly becoming a land of haves and have-nots.
The average American family has somewhere around $5,000 in savings, placing them in a position where losing a job can mean losing nearly everything. Paying big mortgages, which is common for young working couples today, often depends on the salaries of two working spouses. Only two or three missed paychecks can lead to foreclosure! To stay afloat they tap into savings and then into retirement accounts, darkening their prospects for the future while also paying the federal government large tax bills for early retirement withdrawals.
The global economy has given rise to large companies having loyalty neither to their country of origin nor to their employees. Workers are increasingly becoming disposable commodities that are brushed into the trash bin like rubbish on a picnic table.
Highly educated and experienced working professionals who lose their jobs and end up turning to the government for assistance are common today. In my job working with the unemployed, I’ve heard far too many lament, “I never imagined that I could end up in this situation.” This must change.
Churches, especially those in large urban areas, are often unaware of the financial struggles of individuals and families in their area—even when the strugglers are members of the church. Too many churches have lost touch with early traditions.
The scriptures speak frequently about caring for those who share the faith. This is an essential part of discipleship that helps the church set its own house in order. In Acts chapter 6, the Apostles appointed seven deacons to assist in the distribution of food to local widows, who were followers of Christ. James 1:27 tells us,
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (ESV)
Even clearer guidance comes straight from the mouth of our Lord in John 13:34-35:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Building a healthy church family is essential. Brett Eastman has served as the small groups champion in several of the largest mega churches in the country including Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. Eastman writes:
“If you want to create a church community that really cares for one another, the best way to do it is through small groups. When small groups become the vehicle for care-giving, the whole church gets involved in sharing one another’s burdens—a much more personal approach than relegating the task to a committee. The whole congregation should be making hospital visits, taking meals to people when they’re sick or something’s happened, doing childcare when someone’s in crisis and giving money when somebody’s lost a job.”
Small groups in churches set the conditions for encouraging personal intimacy and trust building—essential elements of loving Christian relationships. Only by sharing our hopes, fears, cares and concerns do we really get to know other believers well.
Small groups also enable churches to develop many outreach ministries. One way to quickly make a difference is by reaching out to Christian charities in your church’s local area. These organizations are always in need of volunteers, financial supporters, prayer warriors and other resources. The possibilities are endless. You can’t take care of everybody, but you can take care of somebody.
Look closely and see that behind the face of every downtrodden man and woman is the face of Christ.