Care for the poor

Hello! My family and I were at family camp this weekend. Family camp is faith retreat for families and singles led by St. Mary’s Orthodox Church. It was a fun filled weekend of fellowship, activities, beautiful weather, lectures, and Liturgy. 

What did we learn? Well, the boys learned that they love fellowship which includes faith music by the campfire! What better way than that to live out God’s love.

What did my husband and I learn at camp? That this is what the prophets spoke of; living in God’s love. The prophets that came before Jesus, spoke of many things, and that was one of them. But there were many more. The topic of the lecture at camp was given by Dr. Lotti and it was on “The Prophets Speak to Us.” 

He said that “the Old Testament is not for judgement and the new for grace, but both are relevant to today, and that they both speak God’s word, the old through prophets and the new through Jesus our Savior and the last prophet.” 

There is much more to unpack there but I will leave that for another time because I’d like to get to a point, a gift we were given at the retreat. There were four things Dr. Lotto spoke of that the Bible teaches us both through the prophets and Jesus. They are:

1. I am the Lord your God, and you shall have no other God’s before me.

2. Repent and love your neighbor.

3. Care for the poor.

4. The Lord is the Lord of history.

Again here there is much to say and unpack in these four topics, but I’ll leave this too for another time to get to my point and the gift my husband and I were given.

You see when Dr. Lotti spoke of giving one pair of shoes when you have two – a lesson given to us from the prophets and Jesus; what did I think of? 

I thought, “I just gave a desk to my grandma because we had three.” 

Then he said give alms to the poor – again another lesson given to us by the prophets and Jesus, I thought to myself, “we give money to Africa twice a year.” 

So, what’s wrong with thinking of what I do in comparison to what God’s asking of me? Well, the answer is complex yet simple just as most lessons from God are, but I’ll do my best to explain with the help of the great St. Basil. 

You see when we see a person without shoes or see poverty we are to, “feel God’s judgement” as Dr. Lotti pointed out – which has been given to us from the prophets and Jesus as yet another lesson – there are so many good ones! So what does that mean? Well, it means this; “You with a second coat in your closet, it does not belong to you. You have stolen it from the poor man who is shivering in the cold.” 
Another way to say this is when you see a person with shoes or a coat or some need, thank them for yourself having their shoes; to give to them. You see they are not our shoes to begin with and this is more thoroughly explained by St. Basil the Great below:

The harshest form of covetousness is not even to give things perishable to those who need them. “But whom do I treat unjustly,” you say, “by keeping what is my own?” Tell me, what is your own? What did you bring into this life? From where did you receive it? It is as if someone were to take the first seat in the theater, then bar everyone else from attending, so that one person alone enjoys what is offered for the benefit of all-this is what the rich do. They first take possession of the common property, and then they keep it as their own because they were the first to take it. But if every man took only what sufficed for his own need, and left the rest to the needy, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, no one would be in need.

Did you not fall naked from the womb? Will you not go back naked to the earth? Where is your present property from? If you think that it came to you by itself, you don’t believe in God, you don’t acknowledge the creator and you are not thankful to Him who gave it to you. But if you agree and confess that you have it from God, tell us the reason why He gave it to you.

Is God unjust, dividing unequally the goods of this life? Why are you rich, while the other is poor? Isn’t it, if for no other reason, so that you can gain a reward for your kindness and faithful stewardship, and for him to be honored with the great virtue of patience? But you, having gathered everything inside the empty bosom of avarice, do you think that you wrong no one, while you rob so many people?

Who is the greedy person? It’s him, who doesn’t content himself with what he has. And who the thief? He who steals what belongs to others. And you think that you are not greedy, and that you do not rob others? What had been granted to you so that you might care for others, you claim for yourself.

He who strips a man of his clothes is to be called a thief. Is not he who, when he is able, fails to clothe the naked, worthy of no other title? The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit. ———————–


So, what was the gift my husband and I received?  Growth in faith! We were able to move deeper into understand of how we are to care for the poor, by learning about how the prophets spoke about caring for the poor, which is ultimately from God.
Jesus Christ, the word of God, also spoke the same things on how to care for the poor. 

So, is it good for us to give our extra clothes and tithed money to the poor? Yes! 

And so when we were giving before this realization were we doing wrong? No, but it wasn’t giving freely and it wasn’t giving without pride attached to it. 

Because when we heard “give to the poor” we weren’t feeling God’s judgement. We were justifying what or how much we do, boasting in our heads, checking it off a list of what we do well, saying “we do that”, and comparing ourselves to others in a sense. 

So, instead we are called to look at who has given us all we have and to see that what we have is not ours but the person’s who is in need. 

We speak of poor people. But their just regular people who happen to be poor. It could happen to any one of us at any time. So also when God calls us to, He may ask us to give up what He has given us, to instead give to someone in need. 

And, are we ready to give? 

Are we ready to give to those in need what we have and what is already theirs? 

Are we ready to see our second pair of shoes as already belonging to someone else? And thank them for the opportunity to give them their shoes back.

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