Handouts and Hand-Ups???
How many meetings have I attended…? How many seminars…? How many books I have read…? How many blogs??? How many times? How many ways, have I heard it said that we must not give a “handout but a hand-up”?
There is a feeling – a philosophy of thought, a notion, a fear – dictating that if we freely give the LOVE of God to a bum or beggar then our efforts to “help” will at least be wasted, probably harm the one(s) we serve, and might even hurt ourselves. There is a constant push, by that feeling of fear, that drives this to get behind “root causes”. It then gets bogged down in paralysis of analysis. And as soon as someone offers a new gimmick that sells a lot of books and gets a lot of hype, it isn’t long before we realize we’ve reached another false summit, and the problem is just far bigger than we had imagined. We just don’t ever create the utopian ideal where we ministers can finally just go back home and trust that the poor have now been helped, that they have joined the middle class, and that they no longer need our care.
I, of course, am quick to point out the elephant in the room: a quiet contempt and disgust grows in the hearts of those who have taken up the task to serve. How many meetings have I attended where someone in leadership has observed that in the last few years of our benevolence ministry, we just keep seeing the same faces show up for their free handouts? The problem just never goes away; it seems perpetual! Our LOVE is not fixing them! We must cut it off and do something different!
(And there it is – contempt; though no one wants to admit it.)
Let’s Go Behind The Veil
Despite the fact that Christian ministers have published (and I presume raked in some cash) books, blogs, seminars and so forth offering remedies peppered with Spiritual sounding wisdom and a few biblical citations to match, this blog has repeatedly called the bluff on that garbage. Try as you may, you just will not find Jesus, the apostles, nor saints or angels anywhere in the Bible, outlining these problems in anything remotely like you find in these books. The Good Shepherd never says, “Okay, boys, after you have left the 99 on the hill to search for the one seventy times seven times, then on the four hundred and ninety-first time out, you can put that lamb through a job training course, an addiction treatment center, AND make him pay a token fee before you give him any more of God’s Grace – because that lamb needs to learn that God’s LOVE ain’t a free ride!”
So, what does the Bible really say? What will we find behind the veil?
I want to explore the psalms just a bit. There are several psalms, and bits of psalms, that address God’s care for the poor and needy. And since the psalms are our tour guide behind the veil, it is appropriate that we follow where they lead rather than our conventional wisdom which has birthed a quiet contempt in us for the very people God LOVEs.
Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
2 May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!
3 Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor!
5 May they fear you[a] while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth!
7 In his days may the righteous flourish,
and peace abound, till the moon be no more!
8 May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River[b] to the ends of the earth!
9 May desert tribes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust!
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
11 May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him!
12 For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
and precious is their blood in his sight.
15 Long may he live;
may gold of Sheba be given to him!
May prayer be made for him continually,
and blessings invoked for him all the day!
16 May there be abundance of grain in the land;
on the tops of the mountains may it wave;
may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
like the grass of the field!
17 May his name endure forever,
his fame continue as long as the sun!
May people be blessed in him,
all nations call him blessed!
18 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!
(text copied and pasted from BibleGateway.com)
Perhaps we American Christians lose our orientation to God when we think of living under a KING. Our whole culture was born from the idea of rebellion against the king and the abolition of kingly rule! Shame on us!
I ask you to notice: THERE IS NO HINT OF CONCERN REGARDING HANDOUTS VS. HAND-UPS!
If we can recover our orientation behind the veil, we see that this appeal to the KING is comprehensive in scope. Yes, I highlighted the references to the poor and needy in red, but the dominion of this KING stretches “from sea to sea”, and “from the river to the ends of the earth”! His “name endure[s] forever” and “the whole earth [is] filled with his glory!” Read the whole psalm! It is within this context of everywhere and for all time that we find appeal to care for the poor and needy! And the appeal is not for a smarter job-training program, not for a better addiction treatment program, and not for a token fee, or even to teach these people a lesson! No. The appeal is to the KING for his justice! -AND- For a crushing of the oppressor!
If the church wants to be relevant to the world that desperately wants to see behind the veil, what part might we play in this drama? Dare we take the part of the hands and feet of this KING? During this holiday season, NOW is the TIME. Our streets are the PLACE. WE are the people.
Think about it…