40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
This scripture has been resounding in my mind all day today.
I was running errands, and as usual, was running late. I stopped at the Post Office to check our post office box. I was on the phone when I entered and noticed a woman, with desperate eyes, standing at one of the counters where people sort or prepare their mail/packages. We made eye contact and I kept walking to check my box. When I was on the way out, I had to pass her again. She said something to me, but I didn't hear what she said. I gave her my attention, and she quietly told me that she had surgery a few months before on her brain and that she was feeling awful. She looked sick and thin. She told me she didn't have any money for food.
Now, I know what you're thinking.... She could have been scamming me. She could have concocted a different story for each person who walked in hoping to get a handout. She could have been a drug addict. How could I know for sure what the true situation was? But what if she was truly in need of a meal? There was a beautiful, brand new church right next door so I asked her if she had been to see them yet. She told me that she had walked there first, but that they had told her that they had no food to give.
I told her I would go and get her some food. She seemed very grateful, but also a little worried that I may not come back. I went to a local fast food restaurant and purchased a meal and brought it back to her. She was extremely grateful and proceeded to dig into the food there in the post office. I again asked her if she had been over to the church and she said, yes, but they said they didn't have any food.
I told her that I would pray for her and her situation, and that I hoped she felt better soon. This sort of thing happens all too often to me and/or my husband. We seem to run into people in need more often than most people. I know that we could do more and I also know that there are many great organizations out there that do have wonderful ministries for the needy.
As I was leaving the post office, and driving by the beautiful new church it really hit me. How is it possible that this shining new church, with its beautiful steeple and perfectly manicured grounds could actually tell someone that they have nothing at all to give them? How is it possible that a place proclaiming to be a house of God can actually turn people away without so much as a pack of crackers or a bottle of water? So, I decided to call them and verify the woman's story.
As soon as the receptionist answered the phone, I felt the anger in me rising. I kindly asked if they had recently had a woman come in that was looking for food. The receptionist immediately went on defense, and said yes she was in here, but we just don't offer food here. She said she was told the woman may have come in for help before, and that the church "board" has decided to make donations to other organizations and they contributed to a group Thanksgiving meal, but it was held at another location. She went on and on with a litany of excuses as to how they could turn her away empty handed and had suggested to the woman that she go the food bank - which is located on the other side of town.
I asked to leave a message for their Pastor to call me. The receptionist refused to let me leave a message and then seemed to get really agitated with me as she proceeded to give me a lesson on how "these people" work the system and how they should learn to help themselves. She sounded totally disgusted that she even had to deal with them.
I ended the conversation with two points. 1.) With the economy the way it is, it's only going to get worse and every church should have a plan as to how to help people (not direct them to places across town that they can't even get to!) 2.) I appreciated her speaking with me so I could verify the needy woman's story, and I was sorry that their brand new building did not have a kitchen. :) After hanging up, I really got emotional. I was deeply affected by hearing the words from the "church" lady, and I felt the shame that the people who are sincerely in need must feel when they are looked down upon.
Luke 7:36 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table.
37When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume,38and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.”
I am not naive. I am fully aware that there are people out there who are too lazy to get a job and would rather live off of the charity of other people. That being said, what method of measure does a church use to decide who is worthy of help and who is not? What beautiful building did Jesus have? What standards did Jesus have for saving and healing people? How many signs and wonders would we witness if the "Houses of God" truly opened their doors and said "Come as you are! God loves you!"
I know there is so much more that I could say on this subject, and SO much more that I could do myself as well. I would just ask that anybody who reads this please talk to their own Pastor about how their congregation deals with people who need food or clothing. It should be a priority for every single church to have a plan to help NOW because the needs are only going to grow. If there is no plan at your church then do what you can to get a plan into action.
Do we quietly accept what the church "board" has decided if it contradicts what God clearly tells us in His word? If the goal of the gospel is salvation, what is the goal of the neat and tidy church that doesn't welcome or help the sinner, the broken, and the hungry?