Impoverished people understand their need, don't they? The one living on the street longs for a roof over their head and warmth in the cool of winter. The one eating from the trash receptacles nightly longs for the privilege of purchasing a hot meal or buying a basket of groceries fresh from the market. The one clothed in the same garb from day-to-day longs for the ability to launder their things and to enjoy the luxury of having choices about what to wear. We might not understand poverty if we have never really experienced it. Mother Teresa once said, "Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty." I guess there are more forms of poverty than just being without food, clothing, or shelter, huh? If what she said is true, then many of us have known a form of poverty at one time or another, right? Lonely, feeling unwanted in a world crazy enough to make a sane person spin, we wander almost in a daze - hungering for someone to care, somebody to embrace our pain. Then as though the heavens opened up, we run smack-dab into the open and waiting arms of Jesus! In an instant, our loneliness is no longer beckoning to be fulfilled; our feelings of being unwanted and of little value begin to melt away. Why? In the arms of Jesus, grace heals wounds, mends broken hearts, and weaves love into the core of our being.
Take care of God’s needy people and welcome strangers into your home. (Romans 12:13 CEV)
Yes, our passage deals with the "physical" form of poverty, but it also deals with the "spiritual", "emotional", and "relational" forms of poverty, as well. Mother Teresa went on to say, "We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked, and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty." Great wisdom indeed! I think we need to be challenged a little to look within our own walls on occasion to find the real "poverty" which has the potential to lie within those walls. The truth is that there might just be emotional poverty right there in the next chair, watching the same re-runs of that sitcom night after night that you are! There might be spiritually needy individuals just longing for someone to show them the way of escape from the place of poverty they have stumbled into. When we begin to look for need, we might just be surprised how "evident" it is all around us! Lest we think it is impossible for the "stranger" to actually dwell within our inner circle, think again. I daresay there is a little bit of a "stranger" in all of us just waiting to be welcomed in!
I once learned that you can tell how ripe a banana is by how many ways the peel actually "splits" when peeled from the top down. Most of us peel the banana from the end which attached it to the tree, but it is meant to be peeled from the "bud" end. When peeled in this direction, the ripest banana will peel away into five parts. Ever try to peel an unripe banana? When you try to remove the peel, it is almost like you need a jack-hammer to break the seal! Bitter parts are left behind from the peel. The struggle to remove the peel is almost too difficult to actually make the discovery of what is underneath the peel worth it. I wonder if we realize when a relationship is ready to "peel back" and reveal what is hidden in the core of it? Do we have a tendency to rush things a little, leaving nothing but bitterness behind? Or are we trying to get into the relationship the wrong way? Maybe we are not really concerned about having invested enough time into allowing it to ripen to actually see the pleasure and joy a "fully ripened" relationship can bring to our souls!
We may not be ready to open our doors to the homeless and "street dwellers" in our neighborhoods, but we can open our hearts to the one sitting right next to us! I think this is where carrying for the needy begins - in the couches and easy chairs in our homes, the cubicles of our workplaces, and the pews of our churches. There is no greater need than the one which is simply unspoken, but nonetheless niggling at the core of the heart and soul of the one in need. If you have ever been in a crowd and felt alone, you may have just witnessed a sense of deep poverty within your own soul. If you have ever experienced darkness in the midst of great light, you might have experienced the solitude and loneliness of depression. There is much to be said about the need around us, my friends, but the greatest thing we can say is, "God show me where it exists in me, and let me begin to see it in others who surround me." Just sayin!