As our world spirals downward into social instability and chaos, perilous times will come to all people on earth, creating events that will dominate our thinking and the way we view life.
Those in God’s Church will experience needs that did not exist in previous years. Will you be prepared to help and assist brethren when a crisis comes? Will you need to rely on a brother in God’s Church to fill a need in your life?
Need Can Develop Quickly
The needs of human beings can change dramatically in a short period of time.
Factory closings, company bankruptcies, pension funding shortfalls and unemployment can create monetary needs.
Storms can displace persons from their homes and accidents can leave individuals unable to work at their current job. Illness can immobilize individuals who otherwise could live on their own.
The death of a mate or family member can create loneliness and isolation. These and other life-changing conditions can dramatically propel us from an independent state to one of dependence in a matter of moments. These scenarios are real and occur every day.
As servants of God, when a need arises, are we expected to step in?
As members of God’s Church we have our needs filled by miracles and through the service and hard work of others. Likewise when opportunity arises we are required to intervene to help others in the Church.
Our first response should be to beseech God for His help for the individuals involved.
Second, we should ask God for the understanding of how best to use our resources to benefit the situation. Galatians 6:10 states, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
We are therefore obligated to provide tangible goods and services if the need should arise. The apostle Paul taught that we must exhibit brotherly love through serving other brethren. “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; distributing to the necessity [needs] of saints; given to hospitality” (Rom. 12:10, 13).
As Christians, we are admonished to distribute, give or supply the essentials deficient in the lives of brethren. These needs include food, clothing, shelter or employment, but not luxury items.
In addition, spiritual support to a member could include counsel (“Iron sharpens iron,” Prov. 27:17), encouragement, fellowship and friendship. Proverbs 29:7 states, “The righteous considers the cause of the poor: but the wicked regards not to know it.”
We must fill a genuine need when adversity strikes a brother in Christ.
Helping a Poor Brother
God commands us to help the poor brethren, and giving to those in need must not be done grudgingly.
Deuteronomy 15 contains this command: “If there be among you a poor man of one of your brethren within any of your gates [towns] in your land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your poor brother: But you shall open your hand wide [freely] unto him, and shall surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wants. You shall surely give him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give unto him: because that for this thing the Lord your God shall bless you in all your works, and in all that you put your hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command you, saying, You shall open your hand wide [freely] unto your brother, to your poor, and to your needy, in your land” (vs. 7, 8, 10, 11).
Our mindset in helping the poor must be one of mercy and compassion, recognizing that God has bestowed mercy and compassion on each of us during our calling and conversion process.
Giving of our time and energy can fill many needs brethren have.
For example, the elderly may need help with their yard work, such as trimming trees, mowing the lawn, etc. Painting a house or vacuuming to maintain a home’s appearance could be an inspiring way to help someone incapacitated by an illness.
Often food can be prepared for those living alone. Many elderly persons do not cook as they once did and often neglect providing a well-balanced meal for themselves. “Step up to the plate” and send a meal their way. This would make the Sabbath a special delight for shut-ins.
Or better yet, invite others into your home for stimulating conversation about God’s way of life and a scrumptious meal.
Christ offered this instruction regarding invitations: “When you make a dinner or a supper, call not your friends, nor your brethren, neither your kinsmen, nor your rich neighbors; lest they also bid [invite] you again, and a recompense be made you. But when you make a feast, call the poor, the maimed [crippled], the lame, the blind: And you shall be blessed; for they cannot recompense [repay] you: for you shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:12-14). Identify a need and step in quietly to perform it!
Occasionally, the needs of individuals in the Church are made known to all members through the weekly Announcement Bulletin or by word of mouth. In such cases, respond quickly and enthusiastically to fill the request, regardless of whether you have met the individual involved—we are a worldwide Work and family.
For the most part, we can identify the needs of others without bringing notoriety to ourselves and therefore ensuring the privacy of the person in need.
Jesus said, “But when you do alms, let not your left hand know what your right hand does: That your alms may be in secret: and your Father which sees in secret Himself shall reward you openly” (Matt. 6:3, 4).
Specific Needs That Deserve Our Attention
Jesus Christ mentioned a variety of needs of brethren in Matthew 25. By fulfilling these, individuals would have reward in the kingdom of God. Satisfying the needs of others is likened to performing it for Christ. These specific needs are important to the Creator God of the universe and should be paramount in our thinking.
Hunger and thirst are a daily part of our human condition. A “stranger” could need housing as he passes from one Church area to another, or simply be a new person needing direction and support. This stranger could lack adequate clothing or may need clothing to stay warm in a climate colder than expected or appropriate clothing to prepare for a job hunt. Sickness can require others to nurse us back to health, run errands or help maintain our home. When persecution intensifies, Church members could be put in prison. These should be encouraged and given hope by a visit whether by phone, card or in person. “Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and you gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and you took Me in: naked, and you clothed Me: I was sick, and you visited Me: I was in prison, and you came unto Me.
“Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we You an hungered, and fed You? or thirsty, and gave You drink? When saw we You a stranger, and took You in? or naked, and clothed You? Or when saw we You sick, or in prison, and came unto You?
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, you have done it unto Me” (Matt. 25:34-40).
Paul exhorted the brethren in I Thessalonians 5:14 to care for two specific needs.
First, to “comfort the feebleminded.” The Greek word for “feebleminded” means “little spirited” or “fainthearted.” This person needs our encouragement and assistance because of many difficulties that have weakened and caused him to be easily discouraged and distraught with life.
Second, to “support the weak.” The Greek word for “weak” means “strengthless” or “feeble” in pertaining more to spiritual matters. We can serve this need by helping these individuals understand God’s Plan, or by simply showing them how to apply God’s Law through our example.
God’s Concern for the Widow and Orphan
James mentions two categories of individuals we are commanded to help. James 1:27 states, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” We are to provide relief from the pressures they experience without the support and guidance of a normal family structure.
The widow and fatherless have no one to defend them—we are to visit and help supply their needs, physically and spiritually. The third tithe (Deut. 26:12) is set aside to benefit the Levite, the fatherless, the stranger and the widow, showing God’s concern through His Law. Ancient Israel was to leave a portion of their crops after the first gleaning for the support of the fatherless and widow (Deut. 24:19-21). We reinforce God’s concern for widows and fatherless when we faithfully give the third tithe, in addition to our “hands on” support of these individuals in our own local congregation.
Analyzing the Need
If we are to benefit individuals, from Christ’s perspective, we need to properly analyze their needs. We should ask several questions. How did this need develop? Through an unexpected accident or through lack of planning? Is the need real or imagined? Is the need more of a want than a genuine emergency? Is the person requesting help from a faithful member of God’s Church? Does the person just want “money” instead of tangible goods—groceries or a suit?
Beware of those who only want money to supply their needs! Ask, “Can I supply this person’s needs without becoming needy myself?”
We need to ask ourselves how Christ would supply a need without hindering the spiritual growth of the person involved. In analyzing a need, we must realize that certain individuals should not be helped.
Individuals We Should Not Help
While we should be available to provide for genuine needs, we should avoid helping individuals if our help would prevent them from overcoming a character flaw or bad habit. Being circumspect is essential in benefiting the needy. Paul wrote, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But you, brethren, be not weary in well doing. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed” (II Thes. 3:10-14).
Strong words to admonish those who need to apply themselves and be diligent!
Be aware that some can take advantage of others in the Church.
- Disorderly: Those who are disorderly should not receive our aid without repentance and change in attitude. The word disorderly in the Greek means “irregularity, unarranged, insubordinate and unruly.” People who are out of harmony with God’s Law, who oppose government, who are extremely self-willed and won’t listen to instruction or counsel fall into this category. Helping such a person will not benefit him spiritually without changes in his obedience to God’s Law.
- Lazy: Providing for a lazy person will only make him lazier. Paul mentions that the person who won’t work—won’t toil in some task or occupation—should not eat. The slothful and lazy person is totally out of harmony with God’s “game plan.” John 5:17 states, “But Jesus answered them, My Father works hitherto, and I work.” We do not want to waste our earned resources on those who will not follow the example of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
- Busybodies: The word “busybody” used by Paul in II Thessalonians 3:11 means meddlesome, a person who gets involved in other people’s business, causing problems. We live in a time when people “want to know.”
Busybodies are involved in the lives of others when they should be working out their own salvation. They often become gossips, talebearers, slanderers. The resultant lies bring about hurt feelings and broken relationships. “He that goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets: therefore meddle [associate] not with him that flatters with his lips” (Prov. 20:19).
Busybodies do not deserve our help in time of need, unless they are working full-time to solve their own personal problems and display a change in behavior.
Ask a Minister
A brother in need should seek the advice of God’s ministry to sort out possible solutions for resolving problems. Whether the problem is financial, health-related or family-related, a concerned and understanding counselor can often restore order to a confusing situation. “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14).
Many needs arise because counsel was not sought or taken before making life-changing decisions. A minister can also direct a person with needs to others qualified in the Church to help in certain areas—thereby obtaining a multitude of counsel. Just the process of talking with people who are knowledgeable in a specific situation can be encouraging and uplifting to a person discouraged with lingering needs. Proverbs 27:9 states, “Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so does the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.”
A bond of brotherly love is often built when counsel takes place. Counsel is a God-ordained principle to use if there are needs that require analysis to resolve.
A person who desires to help those in need would want to ask the minister in the area how best to resolve the situation. The minister might have more background information concerning the need, or he may know of reasons a particular person should not be helped.
If a person needed help moving, a group effort would be needed versus a single person’s help. The counsel of the minister could help you fill the physical need of the individual and benefit the spiritual condition as well, while still maintaining privacy and confidentiality. This is the goal in filling all needs—benefit brethren physically and spiritually.
Will You Make a Difference?
In our fast-paced world, we can easily overlook and “run by” the needs of others, while focusing on our own lives. As we become acquainted with people in our congregation, we should become a friend and brother to all. These two roles, friend and brother, are part of our training for the kingdom of God. Proverbs 17:17 states, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
A friend always wants what is best for us, and a brother’s role is to step in with tangible help when misfortune strikes. Are you a friend and a brother?
When an individual is needy, we should strive to help in some manner. We must be personally concerned to be effective. If we are not physically capable, we can at least appeal to the Great God of the universe in prayer. The fervent prayer of a righteous person avails much (James 5:16). Our physical blessings could place us in a position to help—if we choose to do so. We can give lip service to the needs of others or we can step in and supply the need.
We have been called to be doers, problem-solvers and servants—to be foot-washing Christians. Our physical resources and attitude of serving the elect of God will make a difference. Notice this admonition in 1 John 3:17, 18: “But whoso has this world’s good [goods], and sees his brother have need, and shuts up his bowels [heart] of compassion from him, how dwells the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”
Many opportunities for helping our brothers and sisters lie ahead before the Work of God concludes. Failing local, national and world economies will precipitate many unexpected needs in all of our lives. Our ears and eyes must be trained to discern true needs. We can seek counsel to determine the appropriate action to take or not take depending on the individual situation. We are commanded by God to help a brother in need. When we fill the needs of others, they experience an example of God’s love in action.
Throughout the ages men have shut their eyes and ears to the cries of those in need. Cain told God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9). Since then, humanity—influenced by the broadcasting of Satan—has followed this selfish mindset. It must not be so in the Church of God—we are to be our brother’s keeper.
Meditate on your life—how God has dealt with your needs. You were hungry, and God gave you the true bread of life—Jesus Christ; you were thirsty, and God gave you living water—the Holy Spirit; you were a stranger, and God called you and placed you into the household of God; you were naked, and God clothed you with the white raiment of righteousness; you were sick, and God anointed you with oil and you were healed; you were in prison, captive in Satan’s world, and God visited you with the truth, and set you free. God faithfully fills our needs!
The people of God demonstrate their identity as Christ’s disciples by filling the needs of a brother. “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one to another” (John 13:35). Let us perform our responsibility as God’s people. A brother in need is a brother we serve, “in deed.”