There’s a long-running commercial on television in the US that tries to raise money for an organization helping abused and neglected animals. It shows videos of sick, cold, abused, or abandoned dogs and cats – and it pulls at your heart strings. You can almost hear the animals crying, “Does anyone see me? Does anyone care? Will my life ever be any better?” You can feel the fear, the hopelessness, the heartache.
That’s all about animals. And the effort is a worthy one. But what about the people who are struggling with the same kinds of needs? Surely these are the ones who Jesus meant when he talked about “the least of these.” (Matthew 25:40) Some of these groups have advocates that make caring about them “sexy”. And others are comparatively unseen and unknown. What about:
- Family members struggling to care for someone with mental illness
- Parents of teens who are on drugs or in gangs
- Children whose parents are incarcerated
- Those with medical illnesses that keep them mostly at home
- A man or woman who lost a spouse in death a year ago, or years ago, and is still lonely
- Family members of service-members or contractors who are stationed overseas
- People without basic understanding of life skills, such as reading, managing money, or finding a job
- Families displaced because of violence or poverty in inner cities or border towns
- Young people aging out of the foster care system
- The “usual:” abused women, orphans, human trafficking victims
The list could go on and on. Even though there are some organizations helping some of these groups, there are still many hurting people who wonder, “Does anyone see me? Does anyone care? Will my life ever be any better?”
And that’s where the body of Christ needs to do a better job of stepping up to the plate.
Today I spoke with a friend who is struggling with some serious medical issues of her own. And yet she regularly gives of her time and limited energy to drive another young woman, who has even more health issues than my friend does, to receive kidney dialysis. That kind of story inspires me. It makes me wonder, What am I doing to help one of “the least of these?”
There’s probably nothing wrong with most social advocacy, theological debates, and political wrangling. Some of that is very good, and can make some people’s lives better. Government programs and non-profit organizations have an important place.
But I’m left with the question, Who have I helped today? Who have you helped today?
How to Help
Here are a few things that can help you and me move closer to fulfilling Jesus’ direction to help those in need as though we were helping Him.
- Start at home. Whoever is part of your family, God has placed you in their lives for a reason. Do your parents feel cared about? If married, does your spouse truly know how much you love them? If you have children, do they feel known, valued, and supported? Is your family getting the very best you have to offer? The people closest to you are, in part, God’s gift to you. Know them. Invest in them. Take care of them. (1 Timothy 5:8)
- Find someone to care about. Each one of us has something that someone else needs. If everyone in the body of Christ gave what they had to give in terms of time, skills, or resources, needs would be met. My friend today said, “We should decimate the foster care system!” The possibilities are endless for where you can make a difference:
- Adopt a child
- Befriend a struggling student
- Give a single parent a break
- Teach someone how to read, or how to find a job
- Mentor a struggling married couple
- Listen to a frazzled or worried parent
- Be there. Your presence means much more than you know. A child who gets your undivided attention for an hour, a sick or older person who has you just sit there – in silence if necessary, someone who’s afraid who feels really heard perhaps for the first time – that’s true ministry. You don’t have to fix it. Just be there! Simply knowing that you really SEE them may be all they need to find hope again.
- Don’t discount the small stuff. Ask someone in need what would make the most difference, and you may be surprised. A ride to the doctor’s appointment, a chance to leave the person they’re caring for and get a haircut, someone to celebrate a small accomplishment, knowing they’re not the only one who struggles in that way – those are not small!
What you say, how you listen, that small thing you do, may truly change someone’s life! And your rewards will be eternal (not to mention the fulfillment your heart will probably feel).
Now, who are you going to help today?
Your Turn: Have you helped someone today? This week? Who are you going to help this coming week? Leave a comment below.
Tweetables: why not share this post?
- Helping someone isn’t usually complicated. You don’t have to fix it. You just have to be there! Tweet that.
- Don’t rely on government or nonprofit programs. Who are YOU going to help today? Tweet that.
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