How to Help My Neighbor
Can we discuss something hard today? This is a topic about which I’m so conflicted. I’m not confused about if I should do it, but I’m mixed up about HOW to do it.
I want to talk about loving my neighbor. About how to help people.
When Jesus was asked by a Pharisee which commands in God’s law were the most important, here was His answer:
Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them. Matt. 22: 37-40 The Message
Which end of the continuum do you lean towards? Are you of the school “If someone asks, we are commanded to give?” Or do you keep your wallet in your pocket when it comes to daily needs and do your giving through organizations like your local church or the Red Cross, etc.?
We all know there is no end to the needs around us, so how do we give wisely? What is the correct method for a believer?
I struggle mightily with this question.
My book basket overflows with reading material on the topic, and there are certainly different ways of looking at the problem. Two books that have really shaped and morphed my idea of what it means to help someone are Toxic Charity and When Helping Hurts.
And the Bible.
I highly suggest reading all 3 of them especially the last one.
As co-directors of The Push Ahead, a mentoring ministry for women, Debbie and I spend a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to help our neighbors. We decided at the beginning that we would not give money to people. It was very hard to stick to that rule at the beginning when we were occasionally asked to help with electric bills, etc. But we held firm and looked for resources already in place. We desired to offer a different type of assistance.
And now we are never asked for cash.
We have learned that our helping and good works MAY do more harm than good. They may put a band aid on today’s drama, but the soap opera rerun starts up again tomorrow. How do we help someone to get out of that sad, sad loop and begin to help them write a new script for their life?
There are no easy answers.
Ways to Help My Neighbor
The easy way for me is to be a drive-by helper. Toss a $20, $50, $100 towards a cause and get on with life. And sometimes that is the appropriate thing to do. At a recent workshop, the speaker, Donna Beagle who was raised in poverty and who worked and educated herself out of it, told us that the poor are often more generous than those with fat wallets.
I never want to be thought of as stingy.
Mission trips are very popular and I’ve been on a few. (Read about our Mexico trip here… Grateful on Mission) Going to a far away land on a mission trip is a great way to broaden one’s horizons . People really respect that kind of sacrifice. But did you know there is an entire industry now to develop mission trips, and an estimated 2 billion is spent on them each year?
Is that the best use of the money? I don’t know. Maybe it is.
A more long term way is to get involved in someone’s life, learn to love and respect them, and walk with them towards a more self-sustaining life. This is not a glamorous road. And some people won’t understand why you want to spend your free time doing this. And only a few may want to join you.
However, if they had experienced the reciprocity in God’s economy, they would rush to help.
Realistically, this road is not an interstate that drives you both to quick results. It is more like the lonely dirt road in the middle of nowhere, with lots of mud and potholes.
But travelers know if you want to really get the flavor of a place, get off the interstate and out into the country. See the landscape. Breathe the air. Talk to people.
That is also true of the road of compassion. The blessings overflow for everyone involved and the lessons are abundant for the helper and the receiver. One thing I have learned in 6 years of participating in The Push Ahead is that EVERYONE I MEET has a story and lessons to teach me. I would have missed out on seeing so much of God’s glory if I hadn’t heard His story of love in the lives of His people.
Hearing someone’s story helps me to see everyone with new eyes, in a different light. God has shown me we are ALL the same and we need one another. These stories have unearthed my own sins of judgment, lack of compassion, or indifference.
And has increased my gratitude, reminding me that I am also someone’s NEIGHBOR and their discipling of me is essential for MY growth and change.
I believe with my whole heart that Jesus is the answer to ALL of MY PROBLEMS and YOURS. But coming to Jesus doesn’t immediately make our lives full of rainbows and unicorns.
Transformation and sanctification take time. We can’t just baptize someone and abandon them. We are commanded to DISCIPLE them-do life together.
Support each other.
My wise husband says if you really want to help someone, after they have Jesus, help them find and keep a job. God created us to have meaningful work and that began with Adam. WORK is not a 4- letter- bad- word resulting from the fall of mankind. Rather, it is a common grace given by a loving Creator.
A person who has no purpose is usually not a happy person. We were created to be “givers” not “takers.”
Several of us are working on a big project in our community to help the unemployed and underemployed in obtaining a job and being a great employee. There is a definite need.
In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about how my daily consumer decisions can also help produce jobs in our community. Our little community is blessed with many small business. These businesses hire people, pay taxes, and give back to our schools, clubs, and organizations. Without them, we would soon dry up and blow away. As it is, every storefront on our square is occupied and looks great. I’m so proud of it!
In order for those businesses to stay open, I NEED TO SHOP IN THEM whenever possible. I may or may not pay a little bit more to buy locally, but I think it is worth it.
I also want to buy American- made products whenever possible, so I am a big label reader. I will pay extra for the item that is made in the USA because I want my “neighbors” to have jobs. So many products are NOT made in the United States, so I’ve started a running list for my personal use.
Our little town has 2 great little grocery stores and like many small rural towns, a Dollar General, so I often shop there rather than go to Walmart, which I avoid like the plague. (See? I’m conflicted. I know Walmart employs lots of people locally in stores and at the distribution center.)
Made in America-Dollar General
- DG Home ultra TP
- Purex Laundry detergent
- Prairie Farms products
- DG shredded cheese
- Clover valley canned chicken breast
- Clover valley baking powder
I’m also a big Aldi fan, so if I am in a community that has one, I will run in. Here is my starter list of American made products from Aldi. I sent the company an email asking where their food comes from because many labels don’t give that info. Here is the reply I received…….
Hi Susan – Thanks for reaching out. If a product is not labeled with a country of origin, it’s from the US. Most products sold in our stores are manufactured in the US. In accordance with US labeling requirements, products made outside of the US have their country of origin clearly stated on the packaging. Products with no listed country of origin are from the US, however, they may contain one or more components made, manufactured or produced outside of the US.
So, I’m still confused why some products say definitely, “Product of the USA” and others say nothing.
Made in America-Aldi
- brown sugar
- gluten free bars
- happy harvest tomatoes
- chocolate chips
- canned pumpkin
- Benner Teabags
- Happy Harvest Mixed Vegetables
- Fit and Active Petite Diced Tomatoes
- Baker’s Corner Cherry Pie Filling-Watch carefully! I bought 2 cans. One said Made in USA but one didn’t.
These are in no way exhaustive lists. I’ve just started compiling them, so if you know of other products from these stores that are made in the United States, reply in the comments.
Friends, do you have the definitive answer on this topic? How do you help your neighbor? How do you decide when to give cash or when to give your time? Share your stories!