The poor

“Blessed is he who considers the poor.” Psalm 41:1

A man in the village came to me after I arrived. “Can you give me some money?”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I am poor, but you should give money to all of us. We are all poor.”

Missionaries working in a developing country are surrounded by “poor.”  We can’t help everyone, but who do we help? Even with God’s guidance it’s difficult to select the ones who need the most support.  And sometimes, helping and giving can make an individual dependent on the giver.  If the “poor” start seeing the missionary as a god, or savior, who will always be there to help, then the goal of directing people to seek Almighty God is defeated. In some places giving to the poor creates “rice Christians,”  people who convert to Christianity to get the free rice, flour, corn or medicines that missionaries give to them.

Giving to the needy just because they’re poor may not be the best solution. I’ve seen it  create a  welfare class of people and ruin honest, hardworking societies, like some villages in Africa.

Every one in the community, including the lame and the blind, had a job to do for the good of the family and the town.  The oldest man who was blind sat under the shade of a baobab tree on a mat with his feet stretched out in front of him. Using his toes as anchors he pulled vines and wove them into the ropes that held the thatch together for the roofs. Another old woman, who suffered high blood pressure shelled peanuts all day.  One senior citizen babysat the toddler while her mother worked on the farm. Everyone contributed to the family, by doing a job.

There are times when handouts assist people to get back on their feet, but constantly giving to the same folks over and over again may not be the way to help them get started again.  Helping someone to help himself provides a way to maintain his self-worth, his dignity and his well-being.

We teach a child to tie his shoes, get dressed, or read. So one day he says, “Look at me.  I did it.” He’s learned to do things for himself and takes pride in it.

Let’s consider the poor, and help in such a way that he will be able to stand on his own one day. Pray that the Lord will give you wisdom to do this.

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About celestecharlene

I served as a medical missionary in West Africa for thirty years treating the sick and establishing health clinics in rural neglected areas.
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One Response to The poor

  1. Martin LaBar says:

    These are not easy decisions. Sometimes we should help by giving to the poor, and don’t. Sometimes we shouldn’t, as you say. But see Psalm 72:1-4.

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