I looked down at my phone, the green incoming call flashing.
“Another phone call?” I thought to myself a bit annoyed. “I already talked with you twice today. I thought we had fixed the issue. You need to talk again?!”
Sometimes it seems like nothing is ever enough for needy people.
If we live in community, we have needy people in our lives. You know the person I’m thinking of: they make eye contact with you in the neighborhood and before you know it you’re giving them money, or a ride to the bank for the third time this week, or you’re listening to another play-by-play rundown of a medical issue in all too vivid detail, or they are looking for encouragement and can’t live a day without someone pumping their ego-tank full. We know needy people.
But “I have plenty of people in my life whom I’ve given money to or given encouragement. That doesn’t make a person needy.” You’re right. But there’s an invisible line where someone becomes needy in our lives, somewhere between asking for help once compared to the third phone call in thirty minutes.
It seems when that needy line is crossed, we go from gracious helper to frustrated and annoyed quickly. At least that’s how it’s worked for me. I’m thankful God is still working to refine those easily annoyed areas of my life and he often uses needy people to do so.
But how can we love these people without being perpetually annoyed by them? I think there’s one great truth that can help: we are needy people too.
Jesus Graciously Met Your Needs
Every person is needy. This is the backbone of the Gospel. Just think, every single man and woman needs one thing ultimately, forgiveness of sin. No one is exempt from this need.
And this is what strikes me: God is not annoyed or frustrated by my need. He is loving towards it. He meets my need in the blood of His Son on the cross and by faith graciously gives me forgiveness! But then, get this, I sin again! Every day it seems I turn my back on what God says is best and sin again. Is the Father up in Heaven just shaking His head in utter annoyance of my perpetual neediness for salvation? Nope. Once and forever has all the neediness of my sin been taken care of. Hallelujah.
When it comes to our frustrations, this is our model. We look to Jesus’ love for us, caring for needy people like us. Is it costly? Does it require sacrifice? Does it hurt? Yes, yes, and Yes. It did for Jesus at least. So what makes us think we are exempt?
The Command To Love The Needy Is Not Optional
To this end, Jesus would have a word for us as we struggle to care for the needy and find ourselves frustrated and annoyed instead. His word would be this:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7)
His advice to us? Love them well as someone who has received my love. “But Jesus, you don’t understand how frustrating this person is, I have important things to do and my agenda gets hijacked by their daily needs!” It is sad to say I have thought that. Often. Have I mentioned God is not done sanctifying me?
Whatever needy person you are dealing with today or tomorrow, do not forget: the command to love and care is not optional for the Christian. There is not an exception to the rule to love one another, Jesus does not give us an out. Jesus died for us that we might love one another. When we care for the needy, we are showing them the love of Christ and our frustrations are being refined.
Two Simple Ways To Care For the Needy
How then can we care for the needy, for the child who won’t stop throwing a tantrum about their want for attention, or the aging parent who so tiresome but just wants company, or the friend who calls to vent for an hour and doesn’t care to ask how you’re doing, how do we love them like Jesus?
I think it’s rather simple. First, think the best of them. They want your help and they value you enough to come to you. So put yourself in their shoes with their concerns. It’s amazing how far empathy will go to help our frustrations and spur us on to care. They have real needs. Star Trek’s Spock would say, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” But that doesn’t mean the needs of the few aren’t important. Think the best of them.
But the second way to help is your presence. Be there for them. Your presence, whether it is a phone call, a ride, or sitting with them, says “I love you.” Most of the neediest people in my life have a love language of quality time. My presence is a tangible way of giving them love and care. To be present is a simple, yet Christlike sacrifice, to love them.
Sometimes the simplest way to love the needy is to take them to dinner, to call them weekly, and to encourage them in the little things. Sometimes rebuke for getting way too far across that invisible line of neediness is warranted, but Jesus would call us to give the shirt off our back first.