How blessed is he who considers the helpless;
The Lord will deliver him in a day of trouble.
The Lord will protect him and keep him alive,
And he shall be called blessed upon the earth;
And do not give him over to the desire of his enemies.
The Lord will sustain him upon his sickbed;
In his illness, Thou dost restore him to health. (Psalm 41:1-3)
I was recently caught in a fairly intense crossfire that broke out in the midst of an adult Sunday school class. The issue in contention just happened to be “the helpless.” More accurately, it had to do with what the government’s role should be in caring for them.
I will try and reconstruct the scene of this shootout. One group (actually just one person) was advocating that the government should increase funding on the merits of the Bible’s mandate to care for this group, whom he saw primarily as a socio-economic class. This drew fire from the other side that advocated a reduction of funding because, in their view, the government’s involvement was actually creating and sustaining the illusion of helplessness, thus creating a growing culture of socio-economic dependents.
The armed-majority, desiring a very limited role for the government proposed that it is the Church’s job to care for the helpless. The armed-minority agreed, and with the most accurate salvo fired in this skirmish, he said, “You are right. But the Church is not doing it!” It occurred to me that both sides were pretty good shots and their bullets were finding their marks.
For the record, I was recruited by a worried party to attend this class to serve as peacemaker should the need arise. So, as I attempted to stand in the middle and listen, It seemed obvious that both sides had merit to their cases but it also seemed, realistically, that the Church, regardless of her convictions, will have to partner with the government to meet the needs of the helpless at least until it is willing and able to shoulder this burden. Since Jesus tells us the helpless will always be with us, it will be good to keep this subject on the table before us in the halls of government and the Church.
The timing of today’s verse was amazing because I was attending a meeting on this day that was being hosted by a prominent believer who occupies one of the highest posts in Oklahoma’s Department of Human Resources, who had some things to say about this unlikely church-government partnership. I will be all ears and heart. (FYI: This post was written in 2012.)
While I am grateful that God promises some super fringe benefits to me if I will consider the helpless, I honestly believe there is a higher road than the divine, quid pro quo motivation our passage lays out. I think Jesus came to the downtrodden, not because of what He would get from God by doing it, but rather because He simply loved them. Something about their needs attracts His heart, and He identifies as one of them.
I don’t believe that the helpless and downtrodden are just a socio-economic class. When Jesus saw the helpless, I don’t think His view was limited to the slums of Jerusalem: His vision took in the full spectrum of humanity who are helpless to save themselves from their inward or outward poverty, regardless of how hard they try. The downtrodden range from the old and impoverished to rich young rulers. This is an arena the government cannot address—the heart of man, from which all the issues of life flow.
The dialogue that determines how the government will relate to the poor often breaks down due to the polarization of partisan politics. My hope is to one day see a Church, who by virtue of proving herself faithful with “little,” is entrusted with the “much” of this need. My hope is that on this day all men may see her good works and glorify the Father in heaven as this arena of care is entrusted into her increasingly willing and capable hands.
Father, may Your Church arise and earn the right to stand, in Your Spirit, in the middle of opposing factions and facilitate this dialogue from the perspective of Your Kingdom. Let them be free of the motivation to receive anything in return for her service; let us merely want the privilege of seeing that Your majestic Name has been duly honored. May Your Church fulfill her destiny, bringing Your Kingdom’s righteousness, peace, joy, and wisdom into this arena that most see as a hopeless battle that cannot be won. Come Lord and give this mocking and unbelieving world evidence that You are a God for whom nothing is impossible. Amen.