When we look at the needs of the poor and the vast number of organizations seeking to meet those needs, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. In order to help you as you evaluate how you can best serve the poor, I want to offer you the following practical reminders.
Not all Christians are called to serve the poor in the same way or to the same extent.
While every believer is called to show concern for the poor, the practical expressions of that concern will differ from one person to another. Some of us are called to immerse ourselves fully in ministries of mercy; others, less so. Our investment in mercy ministry neither establishes nor reflects our holiness, dedication to the Lord, or sensitivity to God’s Spirit. Be faithful in serving where God has called you.
You are not called to meet every need.
You can only meet the needs God has given you an ability to address. Remember, it’s not a question of doing “enough.” We are called to live open-handed lives, willing to give of our time and treasure as the Lord directs.
Don’t allow selfishness to masquerade as humility.
If God makes you aware of a need that seems to be a little outside your skill set or your comfort zone, it may still be that he wants you to stretch, in his grace, and try to meet that need. When we are weak, God is strong, and those whom we serve can often sense if we are serving in our own strength, or in the grace that God provides.
Look for simple, practical ways to serve.
Regardless of where you live, there are more needs around you than you realize. Some needs are best met through your participation in an existing organization, but many others can be met by your own simple acts of mercy. Ask God to give you eyes to see and a heart to serve.
Work with experts you can trust.
There are many individuals and organizations working to alleviate the suffering of the poor, whether locally or globally. Their expertise is rare and invaluable. Do your homework—read whatever material is available on their work and carefully review their finances to ensure they are good stewards of the money entrusted to them. CharityNavigator.org is an extremely helpful resource for identifying trustworthy charitable organizations.
Spiritual problems require spiritual solutions.
If the root of poverty is sin, man-made solutions won’t bring end it. Christ will be the one to end poverty, first spiritually and finally materially in the new creation. Therefore, look to organizations that are committed to the Church and are faithfully proclaiming the gospel in word, even as they minister to the physical and relational needs of the poor.
Trust God for the results.
Remember, your job is not to end poverty, but to minister to those who are suffering. Do what you can and prayerfully trust God for the results.
—from Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation and the End of Poverty, pp. 100-101