Loving and giving
There are the deserving poor. Sad pictures of children with hunger-bloated bellies, or destitute women picking a living off a rubbish heap. And then there are the undeserving poor. Plenty of them. Lazy scroungers who won’t work claiming handouts, or beggars on the city streets. And when it comes to charity, I know where I want my money to go. Quick to judge aren’t we? Do we really know the stories behind the pictures?
In Jesus’s day, beggars were registered, and had their own official spots. You could know they were the ‘deserving’ poor. They performed a function too. Giving to them made you feel good. Being seen giving to them made you feel even better! But Jesus challenged that (Matthew 6:1-4). He wanted people to love. Love their neighbours; love their enemies; love those they didn’t even know. It would be a poor sort of love that gave alms for your own benefit. No. The reward would be simply to know that God knew you had done right in loving, kindly, generous giving.
How do we choose who to give charity to? The pictures that pull hardest on the heart strings? The best constructed adverts? Or are we constantly attentive to the voice of God, to give where he points – whether there is a significant ‘ahhhh factor’ or not? He, and only he, really knows the story behind the picture: the individual and his or her heart’s cry. The deepest needs.
Giving is certainly not about being seen doing good. It’s not even about doing good because it makes you feel good. It’s about doing what God says, giving where he says, whatever he says, however he tells you, whether you see the need or not.
Have you ever received charity? It’s actually quite embarrassing. So much easier to give than receive. How important it is that giving is done quietly, sensitively, out of the public eye, with as little condescension as possible. It’s just not loving to let others know about it, if they don’t need to know.
So as we go our way through life, let’s be listening, with an open heart and an open wallet. What needs does God see, that he is sharing with me? How can I help? How can I be subtle, loving, generous, sensitive, wise? God will reward me, and meet my needs too. And it’s one way of loving my neighbour.