Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians: “I know what it is to be brought low, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have been very thoroughly initiated into the human lot with all its ups and down—fullness and hunger, plenty and want. I have strength for anything through him who gives me power. But it was kind of you to share the burden of my troubles.” (Philippians 4:12-14).
While many people are a paycheck or two away from poverty, I can be thankful to have enough at this time–a warm place to sleep, plenty of food, appropriate clothing. As I take comfort in my present circumstances, I sometimes wonder whether I would be as spiritually attuned without the adequate creature comforts. Could hunger, or knowing my family was in a state of hunger, come between me and my relationship with God?
Here in the United States, many people, as well as families, do not know how they will survive day to day. Entire families are relegated to homeless shelters. Often times, they are the lucky ones. Many more are living on the streets without the promise of a meal and a warm blanket. If there were jobs available, the people would eagerly go to work.
Can a homeless person luxuriate in the knowledge that they have a God who loves them? Can they, in their hearts, contemplate an earthly salvation and an eventual heavenly home? Does their hunger and uncertainty confuse their relationship with Jesus Christ?
The Salvation Army, Milwaukee Rescue Mission, Repairers of the Breach. These are all organizations that offer assistance to the poor in the Milwaukee area. I used to think that these organizations did so out of a sense of charity and rightness. I now, after all these years, finally “get it.” A full belly and a roof over the head can help supplant feelings of insecurity to feelings of joyfulness and comfort. Having enough creature comforts to function adequately can turn anxiety into joy. A person can focus on our Lord rather than their emptiness.
This is not to say that a person who does not have any money cannot love God and be in relationship with Him. I am merely saying that it is probably easier to understand God and advance spiritually if basic needs are met. Paul sets a great example in his letter to the Philippians.
In Luke 3:10-11 we learn that some of the people who came to be baptized by John the Baptist asked: “Then what are we to do?” He replied, the man with two shirts must share with him who has none, and anyone who has food must do the same.”
Shining examples of Christianity in action!