When I was growing up, my school always made a competition out of collecting non-perishable food items for the poor. My brothers and I would go on special shopping trips with my mom to pick out dried pasta and canned goods to bring to school, each hoping our class would be the one to win a pizza party.

I envisioned a huge airplane being loaded up with our bounty and flying across the ocean to Africa to provide starving children with dino-shaped macaroni and cheese. Imagine my surprise when my parents explained to me one day that the donations we made went not to the kids I saw on infomercials, but to people in my own small town.

Jesus reminded his followers constantly to love and care for those in need: the widowed, the orphaned, the hungry, the sick, the prisoners. He said, The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me (Matthew 26:11).

In this passage, Jesus is admonishing his apostles for telling the woman anointing him that she is doing something wrong by “wasting” perfume that could have been sold to help the poor. To me it speaks of Jesus’ primary call to love and worship him, and not of a lack of compassion for the poor. From that heart of worship we can go forth and love those in need — our neighbors.

If we want to live a truly Christian life and to manifest Christ’s love in every way, we will show it in very practical ways, including caring for the poor:

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:34-36,40, emphasis mine).

If you would like to think through ways you can love and serve the poor with someone, talk with one of our mentors.

updated August 2019

Photo Credit: Hamza Butt