Consider the Human
If you look on nearly any list of best places to live in the country, you’ll likely find Greenville, SC featured prominently. Not too far from the beach, right by the mountains you’ll find a city that is bike friendly, dog friendly, family friendly- a place with some absolutely amazing restaurants.
A few decades ago, downtown Greenville was economically depressed. Now, walking downtown you find a vibrant and safe city that absolutely exemplifies a growing economy. The ever rising skyline is dotted with cranes. Those former slums around the area have been replaced with high-end apartments and condos.
It’s a great place to be a homeowner too because property costs are in a boom right now. My own home has increased nearly 40% in value since we bought it.
But there’s a problem, according to the latest HUD point-in-time count, the Upstate of South Carolina has nearly 20% more homeless persons this year than last.
As Christians, we can certainly celebrate the financial growth of an area, but we must always be primarily concerned about the human impact.
While rising home values are a great thing for homeowners, it presents a problem for those in need of housing. And what about those slums I mentioned? Imagine you lived in those. Then one day you’re offered fair market value for your low-worth property, you move out. And then the whole area is bulldozed and replaced with apartments or condos that cost nearly five times what you were paying.
I’m not suggesting that we need to be anti-economic development. Quite the opposite; our job as Christian leaders and members of society is to be a good steward of what we have- this means that extracting and increasing value is a good thing. We should expect our lawmakers and policy holders to generate more wealth in an area and to reduce crime rates- those are good things.
However, even more importantly we are to always consider what a change or development means for those most at risk. We are to consider the “least of these”. When someone comes along and says that they have a plan to turn an economically depressed area into a wealthy community, we cannot forget to ask… what about the people that live there now?
You see we would all do well to remember the advice in Proverbs 15:28- the righteous ponder how to answer. We should realize that situations are nuanced and we should understand those nuances.
So, who am I talking with? Well, I’ll let him tell you.
You see when it comes to helping those in need, it’s about more than just giving out help. When we just give someone our loose change, as Tony says:
Instead what people need is real change. Those who are most in need have genuine causes behind being in that state. Sometimes it’s a major life event. Realistically, if you had no family or friends, how long could you survive off just what’s in your savings account if you were to lose your income? Sometimes it comes from a lifetime of trauma and tragedy. Sometimes it comes from an illness of some sort. Sometimes it comes from poor life choices. Often it’s multiple reasons combined. Regardless, what people in need require is more than just our spare change.
You may be thinking to yourself that the homeless have plenty of resources already but
For very good, practical reasons, you can’t put a grown man in a children’s shelter. Likewise, you cannot put a little girl in a men’s shelter. So what is a single dad to do if he finds himself in a homeless situation? What about a single mother with older male children? You see these situations are all nuanced. It’s about individuals.
Furthermore, it’s more than just meeting a person’s physical need. It’s about helping an entire person.
You see, at the Lord’s Army we are a discipleship ministry. Our goal in everything we do is to make you more like Christ. You, as a born-again Christian have a ministry of your own. That’s the reason that you didn’t just keel over dead when you’re made a new creature. You are made new so that you can help others.
That’s the two great commandments. The first is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and the second is to love others. Loving others means caring for them physically as well as spiritually. And it is really only that Church, the body of Christ, that can do this work to the fullest extent.
William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, completely changed his area of London and then from there ultimately changed a good chunk of the whole world by ministering to the body and the soul. He said this, “it is primarily and mainly for the sake of saving the soul that I seek the salvation of the body.”
The idea that ministering to earthly lives is less holy than ministering to the spiritual side is a carry over from past heresies like Gnosticism. Never forget who gave us physical bodies and physical needs. Never forget who designed us in such a way that it is impossible to function to our full capacity when we lack shelter, food and our most basic needs.
God made us body and spirit, and to be effective ministers of the Gospel we must care for both.
When you truly care for others, it’s a blessing for you. After all, it’s the whole reason we’re on this earth- to glorify and enjoy God forever. How do we glorify God? Well, we do as He has commanded and we serve the ones that He created… and that’s every single human being that we can help- every person.
This kind of communal love is what Our Lord modeled for us, and it’s what we are to show others. We must be open to others and willing to do what it takes to serve Him by serving them… by truly caring for them.
The good news is that there is a promise given to us at the end of Philippians 4. At the end of that chapter, Paul mentions that some are given excess and others are given need so that the giver may be blessed in the giving and the receiver may be blessed in the receiving.
There is a blessing to those who are in need, and there is a blessing to those who are giving. There is no blessing, however, for an apathetic in between.
We are called to be in the world, but not of the world. And we are simply not being in the world when we fail to engage with others outside of our social groups. If you stay inside a social echo-chamber engaging only people that are exactly like you or think only exactly like you, then you are not going to be a very effective minister of the Gospel.
Remember, Our Lord certainly engaged with those on the fringe of society- so much so that the Pharisees questioned Him… and how did He respond? Our Lord reminded them that it’s the sick that need a doctor. It is those that are outside of the Christian faith that we are called to minister to- if we only interact with disciples of Christ then we’re certainly not going to be able to be faithful to make new disciples, and making disciples is a task we are commanded
Amen, and that is your challenge today. Actively be on the lookout for opportunities to help others- to truly help others. Pray for those opportunities, and always consider the human impact of any and every action.
A special thanks to Dr. Tony McDade from United Ministries here in Greenville, SC. If you would like to hear the full interview between he and I, you can do that on our YouTube page.