The disaster relief ministry of One Family One Purpose continues to impress me. They are one Christian organization that is intent on passing forward the helpling grace of Jesus Christ.
With all due respect, Benjamin Franklin got it wrong. He was the one who coined the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves.” Have you ever had someone say that to you? I have. Have you ever met someone who was confused as to whether that was a quote from the Bible? Ditto on that one too. Did you ever feel a tad off kilter when you heard it quoted, wondering If God worked that way?
The problem with this quote is this: what about the people who cannot help themselves? Are they out of luck, adrift from God’s blessings? That doesn’t seem consistent with Christianity’s concept of unmerited grace.
Not only is this quote not in the Bible, Scripture directly contracts wise old Ben’s words. Consider these Scriptures:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:3
I’ve heard preachers describe the phrase “poor in spirit” as “spiritually bankrupt.” One of my favorite hymns describes it as “the end of our hoarded resources.” To those willing to admit they no longer can help themselves, God promises the Kingdom of God. That’s a big return for someone who willingly admits they are helpless to get themselves out of their own muck and mire.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:27
In the New Testament era, widows and orphans were destitute. No Social Security. No Medicare. No food stamps or welfare. If you didn’t have a loving family to care for your needs, you were as sunk as the Titanic. That sounds helpless to me.
What does this have to do with a disaster relief ministry? This past week, I worked with other ladies to provide meals for the team of men building a new home for a single mom and her twenty-something year old son who is severely afflicted with cerebral palsy. Their trailer was destroyed in a tornado that swept through their small town of Cameron, Illinois. One hundred miles north, another team was building a home for an older couple in Fairdale, Illinois. The couple are still recovering from injuries received when their home was destroyed by another tornado and suffer from other health issues. The husband is in a wheelchair. Last year, a group sponsored by One Family, One Purpose built a home for a couple who are both mentally challenged. They had been living in a tent for eight months after their house was destroyed by fire.
Could these people contribute money or labor in the house rebuild? Did they show gratitude for the hours of volunteer labor and thousands of dollars? Could they have done anything to prevent their circumstances?
To One Family, One Purpose, it doesn’t matter. Not one bit. The only criteria for building homes for these people was this—they needed it. In fact, the greater the need, the more reason to help. As one volunteer told me, “Our responsibility is to be faithful in our obedience to what God asks of us.”
What did God ask One Family One Purpose to do? Show the mercy of Christ to those who might not deserve it and who couldn’t do a thing to pay back. That’s the essence of what Jesus did for us when He gave his life for us. We didn’t deserve his sacrifice and we can’t pay Him back. We truly are helpless. When we admit that, God throws open the storehouses of heaven through all kinds of creative measures including the compassion and generosity of His Kingdom workers. Our responsibility then becomes to love as we have been loved. We help because we have been helped in our own time of need.