You’ve seen her before: the woman in shabby clothes, braving the weather near a highway exit ramp while holding a sign that says, “Hungry and Homeless. Please Help. God Bless You.”
Cue the internal wrestling match.
Do I help? Do I just hand out money? Do I look around my car and try to find some spare food to give her? Do I roll down my window and in the short moment before the light turns green try to share the entire Gospel? Do I turn up the radio? Do I avoid looking at her, hoping that if I don’t look, maybe she’s not really there? I most certainly avoid eye contact. Maybe I talk louder or direct the conversation in the car to the weather. Do I choose to pray for her…because that’s what she “really” needs? I always breathe a sigh of relief when the longest red light ever finally turns green.
Then I feel guilty.
I don’t see homeless people every day, but I see them fairly often. Living in the Columbus area will give you that opportunity. This moment, outlined above, actually happened to me as I drove with a high school student in my car returning from a discipleship meeting. I still don’t know what I should have done. My heart ached, but my hands and feet did not move. I was paralyzed in that moment.
We know when Jesus “saw the crowds He had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). We also know that James challenges us to exercise the pure religion of looking after orphans and widows (James 1:27). In the very next passage, James writes about the virtue of not showing favoritism by overlooking and not caring for those who are poor. God really loves the unseen people of this world; that is obvious.
Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “you have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by what I do. James 2:15–18
If we want to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the world around us, we must act and do what the Bible says. We must see those who have needs and sacrifice our comfort, time, convenience, and even our resources. That doesn’t mean we need to hand out money to everyone who asks, but we should seek to offer help when at all possible. It might take some creativity. It will definitely require some sacrifice!
This Christmas season, open your eyes to those who are in need, allowing God to open your heart to them. The best way to show a person in need that God loves them is through serving them. The best way to show God your love for Him is through obedience.
Dave Nicodemus is the Student Ministries Pastor and has served at Grace Polaris Church since 2007, with a brief stint as the Communications Pastor from 2015-2017. Dave joined the Grace staff after serving at a church in eastern Pennsylvania. Prior to that, he studied youth and family ministry, minoring in art at Grace College (2001) and completing a masters degree from Grace Theological Seminary (2003). He’s the husband of Carly and father to Jack, Henry, Emilia, and Charlie.