Perhaps your church has regular requests to stock food pantries or provide coats and mittens for needy families. While these are good surface things, if we allow them to, they make us think deeper about these people's needs.
Despite living in a culture rife with charities, social services, and experts, the number of hurting people around us continues to be overwhelming. Some groups talk about this problem as an issue of the poor needing to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, while other groups point the finger at an unjust and oppressive system.
Whatever our political stance, God requires us to get involved. In Proverbs 14:31, we learn that "[he] who oppressed the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. God's Word continues to challenge us on our responsibility to the poor and needy around us. As we look closely at Scripture, we sense God's heart for people in need and see that heart behind his actions: "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling" (Psalm 68:5).
God's heart is best revealed through the Incarnation. "The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (John 1:14). And as he lived among us, he modeled for us his purpose and ours through him: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18-19).
When asked what the greatest commandment was in the Law, Jesus replied, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" God modeled for us in the act of Incarnation what he now commands of us: love your neighbor (Matthew 22:39). It is a model for our ministry to the people around us.
As we live out that simple yet demanding call, we'll see people through to wholeness. God's Word calls followers of Christ to more than just acts of charity and being nice. We are given the high calling of neighbor.