Do you like the feeling of helping people more than checking to see if they actually need your help? Ouch. I’ve been there. Here’s the thing: you can usually stop feeling guilty about not helping people. God never expected us to save the day anyway. Let me explain.
I had just met Aisha, and I was sitting in her living room. Her smile filled the one-room, ten-by-ten home with pride as she told us about herself. I figured this was probably the only time I’d be in Tanzania, so I chimed in and asked her a question.
“So, what do you do for a living?”
“I break rocks. I make a dollar a day. It’s hard work, but it provides.”
It was a harmless question. A question I’ve asked a hundred times. But her answer hit me like a ton of bricks—or rocks in this case. It wasn’t that “missions trip moment” where tears of gratitude flowed for all the comfort and resources I had back home. No, it was a realization that she and I were not as different as I thought. The struggles, fears, and hopes we both experience have far more in common than I first saw. It was the moment I realized the best thing I could do was to look straight across at her, not down, and genuinely respect her and how she makes her living. She didn’t need charity, but humanity. And I realized that’s something I could give.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s okay to ditch your neighbor when they’re in need of food, clothing, medical care, or shelter. God doesn’t say that, either. But, Aisha wasn’t in that place. She had solid work and self-respect. What I’m talking about is a poverty that runs deeper than money—and connects us all. That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 5:3, “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him …” When we realize our own poverty in a broken world, we’re freed to stop feeling guilty and to start doing something. Guilt holds us back, but God empowers us through our poverty to change people’s lives while they change ours.
No more helping out of guilt. No more looking at someone in need as “lowly.” No more forgetting about my own poverty. But, how are we supposed to help one another when we really need it?
Do these three things.
- Get rid of guilt. We’re all broken. We’re all poor. We all need Jesus.There is no “us” vs. “them” when it comes to poverty. You might have something my new friend Aisha doesn’t have, but it doesn’t mean she needs—or wants—it! When you learn to look across and not down, you’ll get to know people, not problems, and you’ll learn to offer yourself more than just your “help.”
- See what you have. What do you bring to the table? Do you have time? Use it to serve someone. Are you a good listener? Walk across the street and get to know your neighbor. Do you have financial resources? Be generous, and fund partnerships that change lives through the local church. Do you have friends? Make connections.
- Take a step. Tell someone you trust about what you want to do, and ask them to encourage you and hold you accountable to doing it. The first step is the hardest. Don’t let it stop you from experiencing what God has for you!
And whatever you do, do it out of love, never guilt. I’m done with feeling guilty.
Also, if this encouraged you, you’ll love the How to Neighbor messages and Bible Plan.