Dirty-hands Giving

When I was just out of college, I worked for The Salvation Army, in a low-level, basically insignificant position, for about 14 months. While I hated the job, and was positively terrible at it, while I was there, I fell in love with the organization who's mission is encompassed in the phrase "Heart to God, Hand to Man". See, The Salvation Army takes Jesus' parables in Matthew 25 very seriously.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters 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. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I 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, ‘Truly I tell you, 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.”
When you meet a person in need of food or clothing or shelter, Jesus himself has said "help him, as you would me". That's a pretty clear mandate, no?

Last week, through a series of divinely-orchestrated events, I spent some time delivering cans of soup and  winter coats to some folks who had neither. I confess, I have no way to wrap my head around a life where an actual metal spoon is considered a luxury. I have a drawer full of them. I don't know what it means to know that my child is in desperate need of a coat--any coat--to fight off the winter chill...and to have no means of providing such a necessity. My sons are snuggled warm in their beds each night and when they go out to play, they choose a coat from a closet filled with warm things to wear. I have never known the experience of food-insecurity. Lord, forgive me.

And yet, I am a Christian, who believes with all her heart, that every Word of the Bible is a map for the believer's life. In light of Matthew 25, could the Christian mandate be any clearer?

We make things that are supposed to be so simple, so very complex. There's giving. I write a check and take the tax deduction. I'm glad to do so. But wait. There's more. Sometimes I feel like Jesus says to me "when are you going to get your hands dirty?"

It's very simple.
Jesus said Share.
No pomp and circumstance.
No big production.
No tax deduction.
When a brother or sister is hungry, just share.
When a child needs a coat, just provide.

It's a humble message, but one that is nonetheless, vital. 

My heart is moved by the knowledge that in my community, people are hungry. In *my* community, children are cold at night. Brokeness abounds. How does a believer respond to that?

My days at The Salvation Army were tortured (a fact that was not the fault of The Salvation Army) and short (a fact for which we are all very thankful)...but the primary lesson I learned there has always remained with me. When you meet a person's immediate physical needs in a time of crisis, you get their attention, and that moment becomes ripe for God's interveining. A hungry man is desperate for a meal. A man who has been fed, can hear God whispering his name.

And isn't that exactly what we all need--to hear a very simple message of hope and love from the One who made us?