Faith without works is dead.

I say that I care for the poor, oppressed, downtrodden, the homeless, the helpless, the hungry, the hurting and so on. I say that I care and I say that it’s important to care. But do I? Really?

Does it really mean anything to say that I believe something but don’t really act on it? Is a financial donation to a charitable organization a legitimate way to care for those who need care, or is it simply a way of shielding myself from that harsh reality and still feeling good about myself?

This is the scene on the block where I work: prostitutes selling their bodies on our corner; drunks staggering down the street; people shooting up on our back step. People high and drunk come up to me on a regular basis to ask me if I can “help them out”. Sometimes I just assume that they are drunkards or drug-users, because of how they look, because of their demeanor. That’s probably the worst thing of all.

“Can I help you out? In what way? You need a dollar? For what? A coffee?” There isn’t a coffee shop within 6 blocks of here, but there is a liquor store across the street. “A new timing belt?” I’ve heard that one before, several times.

“I don’t have any cash on me right now.” It’s true.

“No, I can’t help you today.” Well, I could, but I assume it would be squandered on unhelpful intoxicants. Is that my decision to make?

“I’m in a hurry. I don’t have time to talk right now. Yes, I work here. In what way do you need help?…” This guy just wants to talk. I am in a hurry—Madeline needs to be picked up from pre-school—but why can’t I take a just moment? I’ve seen him before, I recognize him, but I don’t know his name. Couldn’t I at least ask for his name?

I’ve just shaken his hand. Why do I feel the urge to wash my hands after I’ve done this? Are his hands dirtier than the farmer’s or the nose-picking movie-star’s? Are they dirtier than the hands of the corporate executive who doesn’t wash after taking a shit? I would shake all of their hands without a second thought. Why do I feel the need to wash my hands now, after shaking his?

I don’t cross the street to avoid them, like the priest and the Levite did. I don’t literally do that, but my body language says that I would like to.

6 thoughts on “Faith without works is dead.

  1. jim

    I agree. Awesome post.

    I just got introduced to something called Gentle Teaching. There’s a workshop coming up here in La Ronge soon that Tab and I are going to attend. They are about helping the marginalized in all contexts. They express four values that are the heart of what they are about…

    We should want…

    the person to feel safe with us;

    the person to feel unconditionally loved by us;

    the person to feel loving toward us;

    the person to feel engaged with us.

    This really resonates with me and I think it captures the way Jesus was with people. Jesus didn’t give everybody what they wanted but he left them feeling the above and more. I think the more we have the heart and mind of Christ these things (at least) would be present in our hearts and minds when we come across marginalized people and we would find ourselves asking “how can I help this person feel…”. Maybe we would also find it easier to discern what we should or shouldn’t do about their “apparent” need at the moment… I don’t know… still working on it.

    I’ll say it again… good post… this is so central to the gospel.

  2. Randall

    Yeah, good post and good response Jim.

    Sometimes the need or demand presented us in the marginalized people, confuses for us who may have more, what the real needs are.

    Loving them means more than just giving them money. It does include touching them, hugging them, shaking their hands, listening to them, talking with them.

    And on and on.

    And, for what its worth, I still wash my hands after meeting and greeting most everybody. Prince Albert has the highest rate of HIV and Hep C in Sask.

  3. Tal

    I commute into Toronto every day, and I run into the same homeless folks every day. If I have small change, I give it, but not always.

    I am very conscious of making eye contact and acknowledging them, every day however. To see a sea of people just walk by them every day, without so much as acknowledging their existence, well that to me might be worse than being hungry or cold.

    At least you’re thinking about it.

  4. Toni

    “I don’t cross the street to avoid them, like the priest and the Levite did. I don’t literally do that, but my body language says that I would like to.”

    It’s what you do – not what you *want* to do that is usually the issue.

    I don’t want to type “Good post” because that sounds like back-slapping, a bit of copying everyone else too. But this IS a bit of the real Marc that I’ve missed for a while. Thanks.

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