To live with Jesus is to live with the poor. To live with the poor is to live with Jesus. -Jean Vanier, philosopher and theologian.
As my husband and I walked to church the other Sunday, we passed a man standing between cars on the side of the street. “Have a dollar,” he called to us.
I always feel conflicted when people ask me for money, which is a daily occurrence in New York City. Every bone in my body wants to give a dollar bill, or two to feed someone who is hungry. Although, I very rarely carry cash. Yet sometimes, it is not food that the money will go towards.
I now recognize the man who stands on the corner of 7th Ave and 21st Street, holding out his hand to everyone who passes. On one occasion, my daughter clutching packaged cookies we’d just been given, said “do you think he’d like these?” “You could try,” I encouraged. She ran back to the man and I watched their exchange. She held out the cookies. He stooped down and examined them closely, and then he shook his head. She paused a moment longer, he shook his head again and brushed her away with a motion of his hand.
Although this kind of dismissal could be a reason to give up or think “I’ve done my best,” it should make us rethink if we are doing enough.
God asks us to make a difference, to care for those who are poor, hungry, homeless, or helpless.
We are not to be like the person we heard shouting behind us as we walked on to church. As we heard the man calling again “a dollar,” “have a dollar” to the person walking behind us. This time, someone yelled loudly from an open window. “Shut up, beggar.”
What I’m interested in seeing you do, God says in Isaiah 58:7 MSG, is
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
We don’t have to take these words literally, although sometimes we do have a literal opportunity to help.
The other day my husband stood waiting to order his lunch at a Mexican food truck, the type you typically see on many NYC street corners. A well dressed man approached him and my husband turned as the man spoke to him before realizing he was asking for money. The man was living in a nearby shelter, having lost his job. This time, as Colin bought the man a burrito at his request, tears welled up in the man’s eyes.
Living in New York City is a painful reminder of the complicated nature of homelessness and mental health issues and the inequalities and injustices in our world. Yet, at the same time, it is a continual nudge to do what we can as individuals to improve justice.
As we sat in church that Sunday, the pastor spoke on the parable about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19. God loves justice and what we do for those who are hungry, the homeless, and those who are poor, makes an eternal difference.
This week we are going to pray about the way we can make a difference to those who are less well off than ourselves.
If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.Isaiah 58:10 MSG
Let’s pray about what we can do to be a light in the darkness.
God, I want to make a difference in the lives of those who are hungry, homeless, and poor. Give me a love for justice, just as you love justice. I will follow your instruction to help those who are facing inequalities and injustices.
Where can you make a difference? Ask God to show you, or where you should continue to make a difference.
Lord God, today I want to make a difference. I need you to (be specific):
Show me where _________________________________
Show me what _________________________________
Show me how _________________________________
Pray to make a difference in the life of one person today. Think of one person you can help.
Today I pray for ________________________. I ask you to equip me so I can make a difference by _________________________________.
Sometimes we don’t want to make a difference because it is uncomfortable and we like our comfort.
Read Matthew 25:31-46 MSG
Lord, forgive me for: _________________________________
Where has someone come through for you this week? Show your gratitude to God.
Heavenly Father, thank you for _________________________________
Did God answer your requests in Prayer 2? What have you decided to do so that Jesus can say to you
‘I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’
(Matthew 25:36 MSG)
God, I asked you to show me what, where, and how I can make a difference and I thank you because you did by