Read Psalm 40:17
As for me,I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay,O my God. (NRSV)
Jean Vanier was the founder of L’Arche,a community of those who had significant disabilities. When asked about the willingness of people to come and serve in such a community he said this: “People may come to our communities because they want to serve the poor. They will only stay to serve if they have discovered that they themselves are poor.”
We can sometimes see the poor or needy as a category of people who are deserving of our support but who are apart from us. We help them from a position of strength and competence. And doubtless this is true in that we may have resources to be of very great help for those relatively helpless.
But as Vanier reminds us,we need to recognise our own very great needs. The Psalmist similarly reminds us of our poverty which the Bible says is actually a necessary prerequisite for our receiving the riches of Jesus. Help comes to the helpless as far as God is concerned.
Human need takes many forms. Some need food,clothing and shelter. Some need assistance with getting around. Some need medicine. Some need money. Some need useful and productive activity. Some need rest.
By all means get out and help the poor and needy. But never forget your own dimension of poverty and need. This not only saves us from being patronising and condescending,it opens us up to getting the help we need from God. We can only receive God’s rich blessing if we first admit how poor we are without it.