Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Doing Good

A recent Houston Chronicle article spotlighted the second annual Souper Bowl of Caring Greater Houston Food Drive. Leading up to Super Bowl Sunday on February 3, churches, organizations and individuals will collect food to be distributed to more than 400 social service agencies around the city. The Chronicle story noted that an estimated 80,000 people each week eat meals provided by shelters, soup kitchens, food pantries, and other agencies that rely on food donations. That’s 4,000,000 meals per year in Houston alone! Some of the people who need these meals are jobless and homeless, but many are the working poor, who manage to make meager livings but can’t afford enough food for their families. I am very happy that West Houston will be participating in this wonderful effort.

The Bible talks a lot about the responsibility of God’s people to care for the poor and vulnerable in society. Moses preaches that “The Lord defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing” (Deut 10:18). Jesus teaches about living as part of God’s Kingdom, saying, “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous" (Luke 14:13-14). When the apostles James, Peter and John agree that Paul should be a missionary to the Gentiles while they focus on the Jews, they admonish him simply to “remember the poor” (Galatians 2:9-10). And Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 25:31-46 in which God’s people say to him at the Judgment, “'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'” And the Lord replies, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

In Acts 9:36 we are told about a disciple named Tabitha (or Dorcas) who is “always doing good and helping the poor.” She becomes sick and dies; her body is washed and prepared for burial. But Peter arrives and prays over her and she is brought back to life. I feel this is somewhat parabolic in that I believe God is calling suburban churches like ours to be prayed over and brought back to life, as it were, in the matter of doing good and helping the poor. We have tended to identify and support inner city missions, which is wonderful, while turning a (relatively) blind eye and deaf ear to the poor in our area. In the summer of 2006 I interviewed the directors of Bear Creek Assistance Ministries and Cypress Assistance Ministries. Each of these agencies is very well run and organized, and each is swamped with people using its food assistance, job training, and clothing and furniture thrift offerings. There is a great harvest of good to be done in our area in the name of Jesus, whom we are told was anointed by God and “went around doing good” (Acts 10:38).

I am excited that our elders have begun working on a five year strategic plan for West Houston that will help us maximize our impact in northwest Houston. Greater efforts devoted to community outreach and service will be a part of that plan. Let’s fill the auditorium with food donations on Souper Sunday and do some great good.


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