Have you ever noticed the unspoken needs around you? Someone walking on a slushy sidewalk, with holes in their shoes in the wintertime? A woman who tells the store clerk not to ring up several items in her cart, because she doesn’t have enough money to cover it all? A single dad who’s working three jobs and (when he is able to make it to church) looks just exhausted?
Often, unmet needs lead back to finances, and finances can be a very sensitive topic for many.
So, once we’re confronted by an unspoken need—especially one with sensitive financial overtones—it’s not always easy to know how to best approach the person. Jesus said, “For you always have the poor with you…” (Matthew 26:11). So, since we’re going to be running across people in need on an ongoing basis, as Christians, we should have a plan for helping them.
The first thing to keep in mind is that human beings can feel vulnerable and may be defensive about their need. So, if they don’t respond in the most gracious way, keep in mind that they may be hurting. Simply show them love in their circumstance.
Ask as a friend. Once the person feels comfortable with you, ask them whether there’s anything you can do for them. If they do not address the need which you perceive to be obvious, ask them if they would like you to help meet that need.
Respect their boundaries. If someone is not yet willing to accept your help, respect their decision. Forcing your “solution” to an immediate physical or financial need without their permission may cause resentment. Respecting their boundaries in the early phase of your relationship will help them see that you respect them as a person.
Act on their invitation. If and when they do indicate that they are open to your help, follow through, and do it quickly. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Meeting their need immediately shows your eagerness to serve them, and may open them up to hear more about this Jesus, who would cause you to want to serve them.
Don’t disappear from their lives. Even relationships that begin by just a simple glance in someone’s direction are ordained by God. Once you have initiated a relationship, make a point of checking in regularly. God doesn’t disappear from our lives once our most immediate need is met and, as His representatives, we need to remain available to people. This level of commitment in someone’s life will limit how many people you can take on. Keep that in mind as you offer help.
Address the financial root of the problem. While not all problems stem from financial circumstances, many do. If you are competent in this area, you may want to offer your help in a way that is not perceived as criticism. However, most people are not financial experts (and could use education in this area themselves). So, consider acknowledging that you, too, could use some help, and offer to learn alongside the person, reading through resources or taking a class together. (Here are some free financial resources to get you started: https://boardofretirement.com/financial-education/) Sometimes even if you are extremely competent in financial areas it reduces the pressure on the other person if you offer to learn alongside of them rather than teach them.
Helping others is no small matter. In fact, our involvement in their lives might help determine where they spend eternity. Keep these ideas in mind, so the next time the Lord places someone with an unspoken need in your path, you will be ready to be the person He uses to help them!