Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.Isaiah 58:10 (NLT)
His name was John. I met him in downtown Salem. John was about six feet tall, maybe 180 pounds, and he smelled of beer and body odor. John was homeless. In fact, there were hundreds of others just like him in our vicinity as our church was serving dinner for them one Sunday night many years ago.
When I was done serving, I grabbed a plate of food and joined John and some of his friends at their table and began to talk with them. After a few minutes, John warmed up to me and began to speak truthfully. One of the things he said really stuck with me. He said, “Don’t get me wrong, we’re appreciative of what you’re doing here tonight. But I see churches like yours come and go. You serve us dinner for an hour and then leave. You don’t know us. You don’t really know our needs. And, to be honest, you’ll probably never be back.” You see, John had grown a bit jaded about churches and how they help the homeless. In his opinion, we show up once a year or so to help. But to him, the perception is more that we do it because we like that it makes us feel good.
The reality is that we as the church have delegated our responsibility to care for the homeless, hungry, and poor to the government. It’s the number one issue for politicians, solving the “homeless crisis.” And we complain that they aren’t doing enough. There’s too many tent cities. There are too many people begging for money. There are too many living on the streets. And, I agree. But, perhaps we’re looking to the wrong agency to solve those problems. What if we, as the church, helped to create the problem?
God has blessed the church with the responsibility to care for those who are hurting, homeless, etc. Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, God said, “Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.” So, how do we get back on track? Stop seeing the homeless as a problem and start seeing them as an opportunity to serve. They are worthy of our love. They are worthy of our help. They are worthy of our time. They too are children of God.