Discernment Needed in Acts of Love
By Rev Lawrence Chan
March 26, 2023
In the last days, Christians need to stay vigilant so our love will not grow cold. But at the same time, our acts of love for the needy in fact also need our careful discernment. That was exactly Paul’s prayer for the church – “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best….” (Philippians 1:9-10a)
Loving and offering financial assistance to brothers and sisters or neighbors is no doubt right. Faced with the needy, many of us would consider providing financial or material assistance, even lending money to the needy. Under certain circumstances, providing short-term assistance to meet acute needs such as food, clothing, medicine or temporary accommodation is appropriate. Nevertheless, one-way giving and assistance should only be used to deal with urgent needs. It is not suitable for the long term. Generally speaking, continuous loans or loans in large amounts to the needy are not a wise move. Moreover, we should not act as the person’s guarantor or borrow on his behalf. To be able to really help the needy, we must understand the causes of their financial problem and the growth needs of them and any other parties involved. These give us a better chance to tackle the problem at its roots.
Poverty has its social causes. Problems arising from the family of origin can easily cause poverty. These situations are not the choice of the poor or needy. However, all of us need to be good stewards with the help of the Lord. We need to rely on His grace and, at the same time, face our lives squarely. We need to learn to make responsible decisions. Is the financial problem related to our character, relationship issues, or management of health? Are there any expenditures or habits in life that need to be changed? Is the problem related to a spiritual trough? Where can the person seek power or get wisdom for change? The help-seeker should be open and should resolve to seek the illumination of God. He should face himself squarely and pray for grace and strength. At the same time, the helper also needs to be patient, gentle and wise in walking with the needy.
Besides understanding the problem at its roots, it is also very important to find out the needy’s talents, abilities and other strengths and to encourage them to use them. All lives are given by the LORD. Everyone has gifts from God. If the one who walks with the needy can identify and affirm the needy’s gifts or even provide opportunities to let them train up and use their abilities in paid employment, it will not only help relieve their financial pressure but will also build up their dignity in life. This will help them develop good relationships with the self and with others.
It is not altogether easy to perform acts of love to those in material poverty or financial difficulties. We cannot “go it alone.” The help-seeker needs to authorize the one who helps to share the situation with pastors so that pastors can discern in various aspects together and offer spiritual support. This will not only help pool together various resources but also they can also keep watch over the relationship between the help-seeker and the helper so they can both be blessed in loving and being loved.
May the Lord keep us so that we will always love and have greater wisdom. Amen!