When is it wrong to help a needy person?*

bless the poor psalm 41

I asked my friend this question when we drove by a beggar carrying a sign asking for money. My friend answered, “define help and define needy.” So I chuckled and asked, “well, now it is conditional?” he hastened to respond, “of course it is. correct me if I am wrong, there are many ways to help another person” I reflected for a moment and slowly said, ” Yeah, you cannot help a sick person by offering him a banquet when he cannot even eat. Help is understandable to be the kind of thing meaningful to improve the person’s quality of life.” So my friend gleefully retorted, “See. Some people think they can say a nice prayer like ‘please God help so and so..’ and sit home sipping their coffee and eating their cream puffs … and that is enough help … they have already done their part.” Here I found my chance to counter, “you and I must agree that prayer is an essential part of the help package. Any material or physical help without the stamp of the Divine, is practically useless and may even backfire.” So after a long silence he said, “yes indeed, but prayer alone is not usually the intended help … it becomes the only option when there is no other humanly possible effort to be made.”

Our discussion lingered on my mind long after we parted that evening. I remembered other arguments which troubled me about this topic before. Someone said, it would be wrong to get involved with anyone, needy or not,  if that person will drag you into committing a sin! Others argued it would be wrong to help a seemingly needy person who is not truly needy but pretends to be so, in order to extract the help intended for a real needy person… especially that there are many such imposters around. Yet another summed it up like that… if the help of that needy person comes at the expense of many others who would suffer great adversity or harm in the process….

So, why should this be such a puzzle? is there a time when helping someone in need would be inadvisable or even sinful? And please tell me why any time we talk about this, the majority of people immediately think about… money ??? is it possible for any person who is famous and wealthy to be considered “needy” ? sometimes you are trying to buy a birthday gift for someone and you think to yourself, ‘this person has everything he needs’ … yet in your own mind you feel that there is something missing from this person’s life which you cannot identify and money cannot buy !! would you categorize this person as needy? Why would such a person commit suicide as we have seen among movie stars and rich public persons? How can you help such person?

Looking at the ministry of the Lord on earth and reading about the charitable services of many saints in history, we see that they suffered a lot in the process of helping those who were deemed unworthy of help! It shows in fact that there is no time when helping someone in need, would be unacceptable or wrong. However, the same discovery reveals that charity required a lot of …wisdom… indeed, a lot of wisdom. Is it wise to jump into the stormy sea to save a drowning person, when you yourself do not know how to swim? … figuratively speaking, so many people do this without so much as thinking, what would that accomplish  …. Check the case of a parent who feeds his neighbor’s child and leaves his own kid sick and hungry! Or that other person who spends all his salary to “help” a needy person to entice him into a career of crime or sin!

Unfortunately, a lot of people use examples like these to justify their refrain from any service to others, needy or not. There can never be a justification for staying passive… looking at the pain of others in a callous and indifferent way. Fact is, pulling somebody out of the clutches of despair is like raising a person from the dead… But Oh wisdom, how wonderful you are …

Look, listening to the moaning and groaning of a broken-hearted person and wiping away his tears, is a miracle of love… reminding that same person of what you did for him a year later, is no less criminal than murder. Who would have thought that charity is so simple and yet so hard !?

Will you pray for someone else other than yourself tonight?

* this would be a good topic for discussion in youth meetings.

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