Much of the US. is dealing with below-freezing temperatures, but here in the Midwest, the thermometer is struggling to get above zero. While many people are busy celebrating the new year, others are just trying to survive another night in the bitter cold. As my wife and I were enjoying conversation and coffee in the warmth of our home this morning, our thoughts turned toward the people who have no shelter and are suffering outside in the freezing cold. We prayed for God to direct us about how to help meet some of their needs. After we finished praying I came away knowing one thing for certain. The Holy Spirit reminded me that whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Jesus. That was a critical reminder because Jesus is freezing in Indy.
Matthew 25:40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:45-46 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
I think people in the world tend to look at homeless like a project, a cause bring attention to, or a social justice issue. On the surface, there are elements of truth to that line of thinking but by and large, in most segments of society, the homeless population has become so commonplace that they are almost invisible. Many busy intersections have one or more homeless people asking for help. Go to any major city and there underneath the gleaming office tower or right outside of an upscale urban bistro you will find a person shivering under a tarp or a cardboard box for shelter as hundreds of people stroll by on the busy sidewalk. The sight of the homeless has become so commonplace in our day to day lives that they have almost become forgotten.
There is someone who hasn’t forgotten homeless people. Jesus is very mindful of these people and they are very precious to Him. They are His creation and not one of them are here by accident. Under every tarp, cardboard box, garbage dump, and bridge in this world, there are people who are struggling to stay alive. Every Christian reading this article needs to remember that although these homeless people may seem like just another nameless face, they are more than that. They are the ones of whom Jesus said if we help them, we help Him. They are the least of these.
Dear Christian friend, we openly proclaim our love for Jesus and we sing of our devotion to Him week after week and undoubtedly many people are sincere in their sentiment. But is it possible to go through seemingly religious motions to make ourselves feel good and even be self-deluded to the point that we say we love Jesus but haven’t actually demonstrated genuine love toward Him? I believe with Jesus’ warning about neglecting the least of these in mind, the answer is yes, we can do just enough to make ourselves feel good but not truly love Jesus.
A fellow Bible teacher and dear friend of mine sums up the problem of religious self-delusion when he says: “Some people do just enough good to feel good about themselves.” Pastor John Blatzheim – Shepherd Celebration Ministries Indianapolis
Pastor John knows a little something about the matter of doing good works to be seen by men. He is pastor of an inner city church here in Indianapolis and has a tremendous love for Jesus and people in need. He runs a food pantry, offers free breakfasts, and facilitates multiple outreaches to help the homeless and impoverished people in our city. What he has noticed is a general lack of concern and apathy by many professing believers from more affluent areas of Indianapolis toward those people suffering immediate needs. This is not a blanket statement by any means and please understand our heart motive when we say that many believers from numerous churches in our area demonstrate Jesus’ love by ministering to the least of these with selfless. Moreover, some churches in our area have the means to give substantially and they do so cheerfully and regularly to the glory of God.
What Pastor John also notices with regularity is the professing Christian who comes down to the food pantry or homeless shelter to serve a meal once a year and uses it as an opportunity for a photo-op or religious self-aggrandizing on social media. He makes a very biblical point when he said that we always need to check our motives when it comes to serving others.
After my wife and I prayed this morning, I decided to load up our car with everything I had on hand to help the homeless people I would encounter today to stay warm. We always have a coat or two and maybe a sleeping bag in the car to help someone we may see needing help in our travels, but today was different. Today I decided to seek out these people with the singular purpose to save lives from the -20 windchill and help as many as we possibly could in Jesus’ name.
Here is a brief list of the people God put in my path today as the morning temperature hovered below zero.
I met a young man who was walking across a parking lot near a city park and he was obviously very cold. I asked him if he needed help and he told me that he was just trying to get to his brother’s house where he lives temporarily. It was about a mile away and the bitter temperatures made that a dangerous walk. I gave him a ride to his brother’s home and along the way, he told me he sleeps on the floor. I gave him a sleeping bag to help with bedding and told him how much Jesus loves him.
After that, I came across an older homeless man from Detroit. I asked him what his situation was and he told me that he wouldn’t be able to go to a shelter because he had no ID. I asked him what I could do to help him and he told me he was very cold and needed a sleeping bag and bus passes. I gave him a sleeping bag and a small amount of money for bus passes. I asked him if I could pray for him and he was happy to let me do so. After I prayed for him I told him how much Jesus loves him.
I drove a little closer to downtown Indianapolis and parked near a Subway restaurant. The sign in the window said open but as I was walking toward the door, a young lady was already walking away disappointed because the place was closed for the holiday. I noticed she was dressed in a very light jacket which would be unsuitable for 50 degrees, much less the 2 degrees it was outside. I asked her if she needed help and she told me she had enough money to get to Chicago where she could receive help. I asked her where her coat was and she told me she just has the jacket. I asked her if she wanted a coat and she said yes. We went back across the street and I took a thick lady’s Winter coat from the trunk and told her how much Jesus loves her.
A little later on I was driving around the beautiful monument we have right in the middle of downtown. This busy circle is filled with shops, restaurants, and even with the brutal temperatures, there were still a few people enjoying the day. As I drove around the monument, I noticed a person lying against a building under a tarp and a few blankets. I parked no more than 100 yards away but by the time I got to where he was laying, my face was stinging from the biting cold. I remember thinking that no one could possibly live too long out here with the -20 windchills. I asked him his name and how I could help. He told me he was homeless and his wife went to live with her mom. I told him I’d give him a ride to the nearby shelter and asked if he would be willing to go. He said no because he had too many things, pointing to the garbage bags full of his belongings. I gave him a Winter weather sleeping bag, some money for the short term, and a hot chocolate and asked him if he knew that Jesus loves him. He said that he knows that.
Finally, I made my way toward the bus station and as I rounded the corner I saw two men lying flat on the ground near a manhole cover which had a little steam coming out from it, as I got closer to where the men were laying, I can tell you that the little bit of warmth from the sewer made no difference in the near zero temperatures. I said hello and noticed that they were lying on cardboard. They had coats on but they weren’t suited for this kind of extreme weather. I asked them about their situation and the young man told me he couldn’t keep a job and he’s hoping to keep one so he won’t stay homeless. The other guy was a little older and when I asked him about me giving them a ride to the shelter, he told me it didn’t give him enough space so he didn’t want to go there. They told me that they have both been there to receive help and have never been turned away which was encouraging. I asked them if I could give them warm coats and they said yes to them, some mylar survival blankets, and a little money for a bus pass or meal.
I was able to meet all of those people, get to talk to them a little, and meet some immediate survival needs in less than three hours. That was stunning to me that I can drive around and find so many hurting desperate people in that short period of time. That was just scratching the surface of the untold thousands of people in this city alone. Think about the needs of people multiplied by countless cities across the country and globe.
I know we can’t help every needy person in the world. I understand that some people we help are going to drink the money we give them away. The world says, “Don’t help because they will use it to get drunk, sell it, or it won’t make a difference in the long run.” The world will rationalize, “They are bums who won’t work and should get a job.” The proud people of the world will boast, “Some of the people begging probably live better than we do.”
The worldly pragmatic rational isn’t the loving Christian approach to the plight of the homeless and desperate people we come across. We are to love our neighbor and emulate the message of the good Samaritan. We understand that many of the people on the street are there due to no fault of their own. Numerous women and children are homeless due to domestic violence. Many homeless people are veterans. The plight of homeless people is compounded greatly because of untreated mental illness. The situation hits closer to home when we realize that many people are literally living paycheck to paycheck and have no emergency savings cushion in case the bottom drops out due to a catastrophic medical crisis, sudden job loss, or disaster. Most people don’t choose to be homeless and in many cases, some families are just one crisis away from being on the street with no family, church friends, or lender to turn to.
Christians aren’t in denial and understand that many people that become homeless due to substance abuse and addictions. When it comes to helping the homeless, desperate, and needy in our midst, there are no pre-qualifications and stipulations for showing compassion. Meeting immediate needs such as warmth, clothing, food, and shelter, Christians have a biblical mandate to help people right where they are. I understand that all Christians can’t do every kind of ministry. The elderly believer may be unable to distribute help the homeless on the street, but you can pray, send, and give to ministries that meet needs. Maybe you don’t have the financial means to give a lot. You can give what the Lord directs you to give in money, your time, or talents. What if you are a busy mom and dad with a young family and all of the demands of job and home that come along with that season of life? You can mobilize your church, small group, or family to meet the needs of the homeless and hurting in your area.
Heres the bottom line dear friends: I feel a sense of inadequacy when I think of the desperate needs all around us. I also feel a sense of urgency to do something because of love for the Lord and His call to help the least of these. No amount of guilt, fear, or religious duty will ever be enough to motivate us to serve the least of these with any regularity. So understanding what Jesus said about the desperate needs and about Who we are ministering to, our motive to serve people should be rooted in love. Love for Jesus and other people is the motive for meeting desperate needs. As Jesus’ disciples, we simply can’t look away from another weather-beaten human face shivering in the freezing cold and say ‘be filled.’ We need to show people compassion while we still have time left to do so because Jesus isn’t just freezing in Indianapolis, He is freezing in many cities across our country and around the globe today.
A call to action! What would happen if many of you reading this article decided to help the homeless? Some of the very people Jesus told us about would receive the desperate help they need. They are the least of these. Dear Christian friend, will you set aside one day a month, a few hours a week, or a weekend and simply load up your trunk with sleeping bags, blankets, gloves, hats, and anything else the Lord directs you to give and seek these people out and help them? The least of these are easy to find if we would just take time from our busyness and distractions to actually see them. If you are unable to reach out to them directly, prayerfully consider supporting our outreach to the least of these.
In the coming months, Concerning The Times will give updates, testimonies, and praise reports regarding some of the people we come in contact with and help in Jesus’ name. The testimonies and praise reports serve one purpose and that is to give glory to our great God.
We are ramping up our ministry to help people in need with items like blankets, sleeping bags, Winter coats, gloves, and hats. We also provide gift cards to easily accessible fast food restaurants so people can get a hot meal and a drink. Consider signing up by email to receive regular ministry updates, the latest articles, and opportunities to give to those in need.
We will be updating our ‘Give‘ page in the coming weeks and provide details on how to give online to support our ministry to the least of these.
All for Him,