Last week, I described a missed opportunity to help a mother attempting to buy $7.43 worth of baby food in a grocery store. There are no acceptable excuses. I messed up. $7.43 serves as an ongoing reminder to be more vigilant for opportunities to help someone in need.

“Thank you so much for ‘Only 7.43.’ It touched my heart in a special way. God does provide opportunities to minister to those in need. I gave my 13 year old daughter Keona, $10 of her Christmas gift to carry around as we went shopping. While leaving, we spotted a lady bundled up with a head garb holding a sign asking for help. I thought to stop but was in a hurry. Keona asked me to stop but I had already gone past so I told her, ‘next time.’ She was so persistent because the lady might really need food. Keona pleaded with me to turn around. I listened to God’s voice that came through a child and turned back so my daughter could give another person the only $10 she had. Keona then said, ‘thank you,’ as we drove away, ‘I am happy.’ The light continues to shine!” – Raifa Russ

“Bridges Out of Poverty,” by Payne, DeVol and Smith reaches out to the millions of service providers and businesses whose daily work connects them with the lives of people in poverty. A deeper understanding of the challenges-and strengths-will help you partner with them to create opportunities for success. Bridges describes two types of poverty: Generational refers to families in poverty for two generations or more. Situational is a shorter length of time and caused by a particular set of circumstances. Whatever the reason, poverty still exists in greater numbers than ever. Estimates nationally place people in poverty to be around 17 or 18%. In my city; Lynchburg, Virginia, the rate is 24%. In other words, nearly one in four people living in Lynchburg are living in poverty.

“My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”-well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?” (James 2:1-4)

It took me awhile to understand that the above Scripture refers to more than “who gets the best seats in church.” A more subtle way to ignore the needs of the poor is to simply not live where they live and avoid meaningful contact: “You can stand over there or else sit on the floor” can also mean, “You can live on the other side of town.” There is a word for ignoring the needs of the poor… Sin!

“The only thing poverty does is grind down your nerve endings to a point that you can work harder and stoop lower than most people are willing to. It chips away a person’s dreams to the point that the hopelessness shows through and the dreamer accepts that hard work and borrowed houses are all this life will ever be. While my mother will stare you in the eye and say she never thought of herself as poor, do not believe for one second that she did not see the rest of the world, the better world, spinning around her, out of reach.” – Rick Bragg

“Bridges Out of Poverty” defines poverty as being without resources:
• Financial – Having money to purchase goods and services.
• Emotional – Being able to choose and control emotional responses to negative situations.
• Mental – Having skills such as reading, writing and computing to deal with daily life.
• Spiritual – Believing in divine purpose and guidance.
• Physical – Having physical health and mobility.
• Support Systems – Friends, family and backup resources available for access.
• Relationships/Role Models – Access to adults who are appropriate and nurturing.
• Knowledge of Hidden Rules – Knowing the unspoken cues and habits of a group.
• Coping Strategies – Self-talk that allow issues to be moved from concrete to abstract.

So improving financial resources alone is no guarantee for breaking the strong bonds of poverty. In fact, improving financial resources alone can actually complicate matters. Often, for every extra dollar earned, there is a corresponding dollar of benefits taken away. Breaking the bonds of Poverty is complicated and takes a lot of discipline and dedication from everyone involved.

“Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear.” (James 2:5-7)

• God has chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith.
• They are the ones who will inherit the Kingdom.
• But you dishonor the poor!

Can we do better? Can we become more personally involved in helping our brothers and sisters in need? Yes, we can and next week’s column will list ways you can help others in need.

“The nice kids with nice teeth from the nice side of town, have no solid explanation for white trash’s existence beyond the purely behavioral. They just shake their heads wondering how anyone could ACT that way. They seem to think that if rednecks just showered, dressed nice and kept their noses to the grindstone for a few weeks, they’d all blossom into investment bankers.” – Jim Goad, The Redneck Manifesto