The desire to help someone in need is in the heart of many good people, but only very few act upon it in the face of need. It is not uncommon therefore to hear such statements as ‘God will help him or her someday. Let’s just keep praying for him or her.’ But when you take a closer look at those who make these statements, you will see that they have the wherewithal to offer the help to the needy, but are reluctant to take up the responsibility but hope that someone else would, and perhaps God himself would come down physically to do so.
It is not enough to desire to help. Sometimes, we probably get so engrossed in the desire that we do not see the needy in this time of need, nor see ourselves as the instrument to solving the problem of the needy. In this latter case, we conveniently recourse to hoping that someone else would offer this help.
In this first instance, a rich man wakes up in the morning and prays to be able to be of tremendous help to someone today. He sets out to his office and on his way a lame beggar approaches him for money. The rich man swept a glance over him and proceeded on his way thinking, ‘I am looking for a greater task than this. It is what I prayed for, so this is probably not for me. Besides, I haven’t got some change. A whole fifty naira note is too much to spare a beggar.’ He came across many more variety of beggars thinking the same way. Eventually he spent his whole day helping nobody. Perhaps, he had hoped that some poor strange boy would enter his office and ask for assistance to pay his school fees or help him through university. But how is he sure he could have been able to offer one tremendous help when he could not offer trifle ones. Ironically, he came across many trifles in one day that could have made a whole tremendous deed for one day, but he did not realize it, and he did not offer even one trifle help.
In a second instance, someone might observe her neighbour maltreat or abuse an under aged house help whom she knows this neighbour adopted illegally. Rather than report the situation to the police, she recourses to praying for the house help that someone else would help her someday. The question now is, who (that does not know the situation) will render this help, when she who knows and is not restrained by any infirmity did not report nor do anything else to stop the occurrence or rescue the house help. Perhaps, she thought having compassion was good enough and praying for the house help was the best she could do. But the truth is that, neither her compassion nor her prayer helped the house help that moment the house help needed it most.
This thing called love is not an isolated phenomenon. The feeling goes with action. One cannot claim to feel something without reflecting it in action. For instance, one cannot claim to be happy without exhibiting the signs of it by smiling or laughing. Or be hungry without eating. Be sleepy without yawning or sleeping. Tired without sighing or resting. The same way, one cannot claim to feel compassion without acting it out. St. James 2:24 said: ‘…a person is acknowledged by works and not by faith.’ And verse 26: ‘Just as the body is dead without its spirit, so faith without deeds is also dead.’ An act is an offshoot of a feeling: ‘what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart…’ Mt. 15:18. In other words, love is not limited to feeling, but acting too. And so, it is not love that feels alone, but feels then acts upon it.
In the examples given above, the two persons had good intensions. They felt compassion. But the first person [rich man] should first be able to execute small tasks as prerequisites for big ones. How can one lift a 100kg when he has not been able to lift a 10kg? No help should be considered too small to offer. It might be bigger than the needy expected at the time.
In the second example, praying is good, but why shelve a responsibility given to you to someone else and so delaying to rescue a situation before it is too late? Your inactivity in time might make you an accomplice to the wicked act.
Let us look at other situations. You see a person with mouth tumour, and you happen to be very wealthy, but you look away thinking: ‘How many would I embark upon if I start at all to help this kind? It’s not like I’m the only one who has seen him and will see him in the future. I have heard of people who go out to do these things. Perhaps someone else will.’ But have you helped any at all. Why not do so with the one you have seen before thinking of the ones you have not, so that your witnesses might say you have done something at least? Better still, get in touch with the organization that render such help to take it up. In that way, you may have initiated a stepping-stone to helping this sick person.
You see a man on the road, in his pool of blood, probably been hit by a vehicle, but obviously still alive. And you happen to be passing by with your brand new sparkling car. You turn your eyes away from his pleading ones, thinking: ‘He will stain my car. Someone else will.’ Imagine the position was changes and you are the victim. And you watch the sympathetic eyes passing by only regarding your pleading ones as object of pity. But as time passed by, your body is drained of all blood. And before you die, you think: ‘if only someone had truer compassion than his eyes told he would have come out to help me and I would live.’
You might excuse that the Nigerian police negative attitude towards such initiatives (of helping accident victims) is not encouraging. But if we think of the life of the needy first, perhaps the thought of losing a life, might feel more painful than sleeping and being tortured in a cell. I am not saying that this is easy. Nothing is easy. But sacrifices are not losses. They are simply forgoing certain things for greater expectations. Each day comes with its crosses, which we must carry to merit the kingdom of heaven. We must not value material things more than life: they tear, wear and rot, but life is precious to us and to God.
Everyone wants to be blessed, but very few people go out of their way to bless. God does not come down physically to bless, or you would be dead at the sight of Him (Ex. 33:20), but by His grace (because nothing is impossible for Him, as in Is.6 & Ez.1). But He abides in His creation (you and I) and manifests His blessings upon us through the other person or through one another. It is easy for us to glorify God for His blessings through our fellow men, but it is difficult for us to render blessings by little acts of compassion that will benefit our brothers and sisters in need. How sad that it is easier to receive than to give, even though it is more rewarding to give than to receive. So, why shelve your reward (which God specially molded for you) to someone else (who is enjoying his and will couple his with yours. Mt. 25:28-29).
A feeling without action is no more than a feeling. A desire without action is no more than a desire. A thought unwritten, unspoken, undone, is UNKNOWN. But no word of God passes unfulfilled. If you do not do it, someone else certainly will. It is just a pity it is not the person originally meant to do it. Let us rise up to love. Let us help the next person in need if we can. He or she may not just be our brother or sister. He or she is in Christ Jesus. You might not just be helping that person, but yourself too. Who knows, what you fail to rescue someone from today, might touch off on you tomorrow. Do I hear – God forbid!? Remember God abides in you, so let Him forbid it by you obeying His command to show love and not just feel it. A liar can claim to feel so too. God bless you.
By Ifeanyi O.C
[Written 11/May/2005. Published in the November 2005 St. Dominic’s Church Yaba Lagos, Adult Harvest Magazine, P68]