“And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Mark 10:21. These are the words of Jesus given to the rich young ruler. These are but a few of the words that Jesus and the scriptures have to say about helping the poor.
Some Christians try to skirt around the claim that the Bible teaches us to help the poor by highlighting specific verses that mention helping brothers in need. Helping a Christian brother or sister in need is good and true, but taking these few verses and extrapolating the same meaning from every other verse that speaks about helping the poor and oppressed is incorrect and self-serving. This is not what Jesus would have us do… so why do we have so many homeless people in this nation full of Christians?
The reality of homelessness in America
Last year, there were more than 500,000 homeless people in the United States. This number is projected to increase. With so many people without a home, it can seem daunting for any individual Christian to think he or she can make a difference. However, as a body, we can make a massive impact toward eradicating homelessness in America, and maybe, the world.
Some experts estimate that the cost to end homelessness in America is around $20 billion dollars. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but when you compare it to the $70 billion dollars that the church receives in tax breaks alone every year, it suddenly seems small. Then you consider the annual church income, which is even higher than the tax break figure, with the Catholic Church in the United States alone bringing in $170 billion dollars on average per year.
Surely, we could spare a few of these billions for “the least of these.” What happened to the church in America? What happened to the church in the world? We’re supposed to be the ones who love and care for the oppressed, not the rich institutions that leave them in the dust to starve and die.
What can you do to help eradicate homelessness?
First of all, you can love the stranger and the oppressed unconditionally. Do not seek out excuses for not helping them. “But, maybe they’ll use the money for drugs.” Maybe some do, but that’s not the point. If they abuse what’s been given to them, that’s between them and the Lord, but by ignoring the plight of all in need because of what we think a few might do, we ignore the overwhelming call of scriptures to help those in need.
Second, you can talk with your church. If you tithe regularly, you should speak with your church leadership about where that money is going. Is your church about to buy a new projection screen? Is it about to buy a new fog machine system to make worship more exciting? None of these things are inherently bad, but is the need for any of this really greater than the need of helping the poor and unfortunate? You know the answer in your heart.
Third, you can give on your own. Organizations like Compassion International and Jesus Was Homeless are examples of a few organizations that help others that you can support monetarily. Maybe, you can even volunteer time to serve too. Money isn’t the only way to help.
Let’s be the light of the world and share the love of God with everyone around us, especially those in need.