"Dear Marshall, please do me this favor and bail me out for $100... I could be here from 3-5 months and I receive a monthly social security check, and I'm afraid that if I'm not there, someone may help themselves to my money....Please, I really need your help. I have nobody else to depend on, please."
"I would like for you to check in on my daughter. She just got her place. She doesn't have any furniture or pots and pans. She has three girls, 2 yrs old, 1 yr old, and 3 months old. I know that Christmas time is coming and she'll need help in that department, too."
Diane and I received each of these requests in the same envelope, sent to us from the Greensboro jail this week. Both people who wrote have known me and Diane for years, and we have tried to help them in various ways from prayer to food to money. As I read, I felt overwhelmed; I mean, one of them has no one else to depend on and if I don't come through, they are going to be in jail for months and lose their money. If I don't come through, this single mom with 3 kids will be in a house with no furniture or pots and pans.
Everything in me wants to respond and fix these things, but not for the right reason. I'm driven by a voice that says, "You have the $100. You have plenty of household things. You owe it to the poor to help them every time that you can. You're a Christian, for crying out loud. You have the resources, so help them. Now!"
But is Jesus leading me to help? While I have known these two for years, I have little to no ongoing relationship with them. One of them I saw for the first time in 5 years this summer. The other only comes around in times of need. Will transformation happen if a band-aid is applied without ongoing commitment and care? Can I provide that? Do they want that? Why is the first person in jail and is it better for them to get out right now and be saved from consequences or could the Lord have something He wants to do in them by making them face their choices? My church has worked with the single mom before, to no avail, no transformation.
I know that there is a time and place for emergency help, for RIGHT NOW aid. But so many needs that we see seem to be RIGHT NOW, and you just can't go around putting out fires and trying to stem the tide by putting a piece of chewing gum over the leak. Yet saying no seems mean and un-Christian. I have to remember that there is one Savior, His name is Jesus Christ, and my call is to follow His voice, not my guilt or others' needs. There is plenty of work to be done, and in His timing, He will lead us to it.