The Bible is full of examples of generosity. The Apostle Paul, for example, relied on his community to finance his mission (Philippians 4:14-17). Acts 2:45 also shows us a beautiful picture of the early disciples selling their property and possessions “to give to anyone who had need”. There’s also the story of the widow who gave up her very last jar of oil to feed the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 17:7-16).
These examples show us that giving and receiving help is not just a part of our daily lives, but also part of the fabric of the Christian community. In an ideal world, we can be found with our sleeves rolled up, giving the community hall a good lick of paint. Or a friend popping by with our favourite meals when we’re sick.
Yet, when it comes to carrying those actions out in our own lives, there’s always a slight pause. Sometimes it’s not quite as easy as we imagine it to be . . .
Let’s look at some of the reasons that may be holding us back from offering help:
1. We feel we don’t have “enough” to give
We’re already running on the smell of an oily rag in terms of time, money, and resources.
So, when a group chat pops up asking if anyone’s able to do an extra meal for a grieving family, or pitch in money for a food hamper for a family going through a tough time, we think, “Sigh, but I need help too. Barely have the time or money to look after me.”
Of course, it’s not wrong to look after ourselves first, especially if we really don’t have enough to share or go around.
However, Psalm 130:1 reminds us that we’re looked after by a generous God, who “satisfies our desires with good things”, and because we know that we’re already looked after by the King of Kings, we can freely share whatever we do have to those around us.
And our giving doesn’t have to be super fancy or extravagant. It could mean just preparing an extra portion of whatever we’re cooking for a grieving family, or contributing towards a simple care package for a friend’s basic needs. What matters more is the heart behind why we’re giving.
2. We want to help… but we don’t know how to
We’ve just heard news that our colleague has broken his ankle cycling or our cousin has been made redundant.
And we feel like we should offer our help, but we aren’t very sure what they need. Trips to the doctor? Financial aid? Perhaps they’re already doing fine on their own, and we’re just meddling in their affairs. What if we end up getting in their way, we think? Maybe we’ll just let them be.
However, Scripture says we’re not to withhold good from anyone when it’s within our power to act (Proverbs 3:27), and we’re to show compassion to those around us (Ephesians 4:32). There’s no better time to work this out than now. If we’re unsure how to help, it’s the perfect opportunity to ask them to share with us specifically how we can help them—perhaps it’s to help pick up a prescription or keep our eyes and ears open for job opportunities.
And even if they might not need anything from us, simply just checking in on them shows that we care for them!
3. We think someone else will do it
There’s an announcement in our church bulletin asking for extra hands to help an elderly couple move homes as they’re downsizing. We think, “Eh, the church is large enough, surely someone will help them”, and we leave it to someone else to do the job.
But everyone else thought the same, and the elderly couple is now too shy for the church to make another announcement the following Sunday to ask for volunteers.
James 2:14-17 says if we respond to a brother or sister who is without “daily clothes and daily food” with words (“Go in peace; keep warm and well fed”) but do nothing about it, then our faith is dead. Jesus also says whatever we do for the least of these, we’re doing it for Christ (Matthew 25:44-45).
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to take that first step to help someone, especially if we feel like we’re the only ones helping! But when we make that first step to register our interest, this might in turn encourage and inspire others to step forward and help together with us. And if we can’t, perhaps we can suggest a few other friends who can.
That’s what it looks like to be part of a Christian community–one where we know we can always turn to each other for help, and in turn receive help in our own times of need. This shows that God’s love is alive within us, moving us into practical deeds of faith that will shine our Father’s love on His children.