With summer right around the corner, many of us are preparing our ministries for local and international missions. A big component many of those trips include is caring for the poor, something that can be tricky to do correctly. Our heart is totally there, but our methods can sometimes be a little misguided. Chase Miller wrote and incredible article on Relevant about it called, “The Wrong Way to Approach the Poor.” Here is one of my favorite parts:
Don’t Let Pity Be Your Motivation
Believe you me, the last thing that poor people need is your pity. Your friendship? Absolutely. Your prayers? Without a doubt. The problem is, when we approach someone with pity and then stay at that level, there is never any mutuality to the relationship. They remain a specimen, a project, if you will.
Look at Christ’s example of the Good Samaritan—his first response for the downtrodden man splayed across the roadway was indeed pity. That’s probably why he stopped in the first place. Yet the next phase of their interaction was far beyond pity. It was intimacy.
The Samaritan cleaned and bandaged his wounds, gave of his time and talents, and invested himself in the wellbeing of his newfound friend. Pity by itself allows us to keep people at arm’s length, never developing the reciprocity and meaningful exchange that characterize a real relationship.
I love that he discusses the fine line between compassion and pity. The change in our heart may be subtle at first, but once we switch to pity, our ministry is impacted greatly. If your ministry is doing any missions this year, make sure you read this article and consider adding some of this to your training… especially if your students don’t interact with the poor that often.
Are there any other tips that you would add to the list of “How to not approach the poor”?