Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor
will himself call out and not be answered.
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,
and he will repay him for his deed.
Some time ago I saw a picture of a homeless child in India sitting on the side of the street begging. The child was very small, perhaps four or five. Far too young to be able to fend for himself in any situation, let alone on the street. The caption on the picture spoke of people walking past the boy and ignoring him. It impacted me deeply. I couldn't imagine walking past a small, hungry child who was alone on the streets and doing nothing to help him. I wanted to run over and scoop that child up and take him home with me. What could cause people to grow so cold and unempathizing as to offer no help?
Yet, as I read Proverbs 21:13 I feel a tinge of guilt. I haven't ignored street children sitting at my feet, but haven't I ignored the cries of the poor? In today's world we all have a front row seat to suffering. We've all seen the commercials. We've heard about the ministries and the need. There is desperate need and more good ministries meeting that need in the name of Jesus than you or I could ever provide for on our own. There are orphans, hungry families, the ill, those without the gospel, those without the Bible, those who are persecuted for their faith, those who are forced into slavery or sex-slavery, the homeless, the disabled, and many, many more. It's emotionally exhausting and overwhelming to think about. How should I go about determining which ministry to give to, or how much to give, or (even harder) how much I should keep for myself and my family? We must be careful to avoid allowing our hearts to become hardened to the cries of the poor. God promises to punish those who ignore the need around them. He promises to soften their demeanor by letting them experience need for themselves. Help me, Father, not to be guilty of this great sin.
But perhaps a little motivation toward righteousness will help too. Consider Proverbs 19:17. In it God promises to bless those who help the poor. Far from being ashamed to associate with poor people, God equates Himself with them. He says that when we give to the poor it's like we are helping Him. In fact, we can give money to the poor in confidence that it's exactly what God wants to bless them with. He promises to view it as a loan and pay us back. Now what kind of interest do you think God pays on His loans? I don't know but I'd be willing to bet that He always repays His debts.
So check your ears today and make sure they are still wide open to hear the cry of the needy. We all have to keep some money back for our own family, but make sure you are giving sacrificially to the opportunities God has placed in your path. Trust me, He'll pay you back.