Need? What Need?


August 3rd’s The Wall Street Journal ran a philanthropy story on Doris Buffet, the sister of billionaire Warren Buffet. She has a homey charity called the Sunshine Lady Foundation from which she intercepts letters of need addressed to her brother and meets those needs with small gifts of cash averaging $4,800.

Here’s a snippet from that WSJ article:

Marie Delahoussaye, a widow in Texas, asked for money to replace an obsolete hearing aid that “whistles.” In neat, black cursive script on green-lined memo paper she wrote, “Please consider helping me. I live very frugally. I don’t waste anything.”

Ms. Buffett paid for two hearing aids that cost about $1,800 total. Ms. Delahoussaye—who says she never expected to receive a response—says the devices have helped her reconnect with friends and her community. Before getting the hearing aids, “I couldn’t hear the phone ring,” she says. “I would go to church and couldn’t hear the sermon.” She says the experience has reaffirmed her faith in strangers. “This has made me realize there are still good people in the world,” she says.

A story that makes the heartstrings sing, right?

But did anyone here catch the deeper issue? This elderly widow couldn’t hear the sermons at her church. She writes to Warren Buffett. Doris Buffett comes to her assistance. And this hearing-impaired widow gets her new hearing aids. She says it reaffirms her faith in strangers.

But at whose expense does that reaffirmation come?

You see it? I hope I’m not the only one asking, “Where was her church?” I hate to think that she mentioned this to people at her church and no one did anything. It seems that way, though, doesn’t it?

We sometimes fall into this “God helps those who help themselves” mentality that flies in the face of the Gospel. I mean, if we won’t help an increasingly deaf widow, who will we help?

It pains me to think that we still live lives that rarely consider our neighbors. I’ve been accused by other Christians of preaching some kind of new utopia in which the Church meets everyone’s needs. That’s not true. I do, though, believe that many needs, particularly for community, are going unmet by our churches. We are His hands...Monetary needs, too. I don’t see how anyone in a church can buy a second car when some people in that same church can’t even afford to buy one. We’re buying all sorts of disposable junk for ourselves while others in our churches are barely getting by. There’s one word for that: evil.

Now it may be that the elderly widow quoted never made an attempt to contact anyone in her church about her problem. But even then, how is it that her first thought for help went outside the church rather than within it?

Do you see the PR problem there?

If folks in the pews realize that they might as well not even trouble anyone in their church for help because they know they probably won’t get it, what does that say to people outside the church? If we won’t take care of our own, how are we any better than some bridge club or secular fraternal organization? Actually, scratch that. The bridge club and secular fraternal organization would’ve done something to help.

Why do I harp on this topic so much? Because we’re just not getting it. A few churches understand, but not enough. Some are still stuck on believing that they can’t do anything to meet a need lest they somehow trample on God’s sovereign turf. Who knows? Maybe God’s trying to teach that person something; if we help that will only foul up God’s discipline. That’s baloney, though. The Bible is clear: See the need, meet the need. As I’ve been learning, we’re to always lead with love. God won’t punish us if we step in to help someone because we take seriously His command to be servants. On the flip side, we will be chastised if we don’t help. (Sheep and goats—Matthew 25:31-46—anyone?)

If we don’t understand who we are in Christ, then of course we’ll let the need go unmet. If we don’t understand that we have been given the storehouse of heaven because we’re heirs to the Kingdom, then of course we’ll be stingy. If we haven’t died at the cross, then of course we’ll be looking out for our own self-interests at the expense of others. Of course we won’t want to go without something we don’t need so that someone else can have their pressing need met. Why would we give up any of our wants so we can help someone else?

Yet Christ gave up His very life for us so that we can have the riches of heaven! What ingrates we can be. That some old lady can’t hear her pastor’s sermons, yet no one in her church will help. What kind of sermon is that guy preaching anyway, that his listeners can’t see how much Christ has lavished on them so they can lavish His bounty on others in need?

If I don’t instill in my son that we go without certain things we want so we can use the money to help others in need, then it doesn’t matter how many Bible verses he’s memorized, he’s been deprived of the heart of God. I fear that too many Christian parents brainwash themselves and their kids into a sense of entitlement that stomps on the Gospel. God help us should the next generation be even more stingy than we’ve become.

Are you angry now? Truly righteously angry? I am.

See also: