It was Christmas week and I was in San Antonio, Texas visiting my sister-in-law. Her church was taking bags of groceries to a local housing project and my wife and I had brought our two little sons along with us to take part in the outreach.
After a quick prayer lead by my little seven-year-old, each of us took a grocery sack and started towards a row of houses across the street.
We knocked on the door and it was opened by an elderly Hispanic woman who looked at us with more than a bit of apprehension. After we introduced ourselves we told her we were offering a free bag of groceries as part of a Christmas outreach from an area church. She invited us inside and thanked us for the food, telling us that she was very hungry.
Standing in her tiny living room, I asked her if we could pray with her for anything. She looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said, "The other day I was so lonely and down. I asked God if He was real to send me an angel so I'd know that He had not forgotten me." She stopped to look at my wife and two little boys and then turned back to me with tears welling in her eyes. "But He sent me four angels," she said.
We were all in tears as we held hands and prayed for Gods blessing in her life, for healing to her body and for her Grandchildren, and then we said goodbye, going next door to pass out another bag of groceries.
Such a simple act of kindness made a wealth of difference to a total stranger.
I will never forget that day, or that woman we prayed with. I know my two little sons will never forget it either.
It's moments like these that Jesus smiles on His children and rains down grace on His people. It's what we were made for.
Even the most casual reading of the New Testament Gospels reveals a Christ who was full of compassion for the poor.
In Mathew, chapter six, Jesus instructs his disciples on the finer points of how to give to the poor with the assumption that they would, of course, be about this practice. "But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Jesus (Matthew 6:3)
It's with the same assumptive reasoning that he follows this up by saying "And when you pray" in the very next verse. His assumption was that His followers would be giving to the needy, and praying.
1 John 3:17 says it even more strongly, "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?"
How can the love of God be in him?
Every single day, something like forty thousand people die of starvation and malnutrition in this world of ours. That's about twenty-seven people per minute. Even more alarming is the knowledge that, out of these, twenty of these are under the age of five.
I read a commentary recently that compared this number to the dropping of the first atomic bomb every three days.
The question is not whether or not people are hungry in the world. The facts are clear. People are most certainly in need, and not just in those Third World countries either.
No, the question is not whether or not people are hungry, the question is whether or not God's people will rise up and do something about it.
I find it more than a little disturbing that every time Jesus tells a parable about someone who ends up in Hell, its because they were completely apathetic towards the poor around them.
For example, at the Judgement Seat described by Christ in Matthew 25, the goats are rejected because they were able to call Jesus "Lord" but had no compassion for those around them who were in need. In fact, seeing people hungry, naked, poor, and alone didn't seem to bother them at all.
Now, I'm not saying that if you don't serve the poor you're going to hell. But, Jesus does seem to use this as a sort of litmus test for those who truly belong to Him. Compassion for the poor is often used in scripture as evidence of salvation.
There's probably no better section of scripture to illustrate this point than in James, the second chapter, verses 14 to 19; "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, You have faith; I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that and shudder."
The demons believe in a way you and I can't. They've seen God with their own eyes. They've heard the actual, audible voice of Jesus. They don't just believe; they know. But this belief doesn't have the power to save them or change them. It's belief without any corresponding action.
Demons believe, but they don't comfort the sick in hospitals. They don't knock on doors and hand out free groceries to the poor, but those who name the name of Christ can't help but serve those in need with complete joy.
True faith always involves action. Faith is doing something about what you believe.
God's Word is clear as crystal on this issue; Those who call themselves followers of Christ must look with compassion on these who are in need.
Peace (on Earth),