Blessed to bless – God will meet all your needs – part 1
There is a wonderful promise in Phil 4:19: “my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” It is often quoted. But what do people need?
The psychologist Maslow famously wrote about a hierarchy of needs – until the basic needs for survival (food, water, warmth and rest) are met, it is not possible to focus on the next level (shelter and security) or the higher levels of psychological needs and ‘self actualisation.’
William Booth and the Salvation Army pioneers put it a different way: soup – soap – salvation! They knew from practical experience that the marginalised people they were working amongst needed some basic needs met before they could even be able to hear about Jesus. A person whose life is messed up physically (maybe by drink and drugs) or socially (broken relationships and exclusion from normal society) or psychologically (through abuse, rejection or mental illness) or spiritually (independence or idolatry) needs help at each level of need.
That is why it is so important we as Christians serve the poor and needy around us in many different ways. It needs the whole church in the city to show the love of Christ in different ways and in different contexts. Some will do this through involvement with work done to care for the needs of the marginalised by a church or Christian charity like The Well in Wolverhampton http://thewellwolverhampton.co.uk or http://hopeintoaction.org.uk/locations/wolverhampton/ . Others will do this through befriending neighbours or colleagues. Others will do this by sharing faith in a direct way. Hopefully all will do this by taking up opportunities to bless others we come across.
But …. there is a but! Often we do the obvious and ignore the more difficult things and maybe miss some things that will bring greater fruit. Showing kindness is godly but so is challenging the ‘powers that be’, both spiritual and human, that create a situation where the poor and marginalised are pushed out of society.
The Brazilian Archbishop Helder Camara is reported as saying “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.” It can be risky challenging the powers. But it is important – by changing the system we might prevent many more falling into a vulnerable and needy situation.
One example is the case of food banks. As I wrote last week, research shows two out of five beneficiaries need urgent help because of a delay in receiving benefits, which in turn is usually due to a delay in processing a change in circumstances. It is wonderful to show love by providing for the need. But how much more fruitful it might be to show love by campaigning for the benefits system to be simplified and assessments to be made more quickly and with more compassion.
This is dangerous territory. We can all agree on the need to show love by helping at our own cost. But we might have some different views on how we show love by challenging the greed of the rich and the false priorities of the powerful. It might be difficult to pray over and discuss these questions but it is valuable and in the long term will be more fruitful.
What do the poor need? Today they might need shelter, cereal and a hot drink. But tomorrow they might need to feed themselves properly and a long term place to live. The day after they might need clothes and help to find work to provide for themselves and build self confidence. At some point in the process they certainly need to hear about the Saviour who did not stay in heaven but came to show what self-giving love looks like. And if all this is to happen they need an advocate to challenge the spiritual and human powers that cause oppression. Prov 31:8 urges us to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
We are blessed in many ways, so that we can bless others. Let’s seek God’s strength and wisdom so that, through a mix of what we do in the power of the Spirit and what God does in response to our prayers, we can truly say to the needy “My God will meet all your needs!”