We all know that people around us are struggling. A homeless man holds a sign that reads, “Anything helps.” A poor child lives on one meal per day. Pastor John Barry and a few young leaders are working to help churches and Christians end the poverty that exists in our own backyards. This is an excerpt from Barry’s new book, Jesus’ Economy.
| by John D. Barry

The best place to start a ministry—especially one geared toward poverty alleviation—is with the people you see every day: your physical neighbors. You don’t have to parade your faith in front of people, but your neighbors should know that you are a resource for questions they have about faith in Jesus. They should be able to see you living your faith in action every day. You should be a light in the darkness that surrounds most people’s daily lives—a Christ-centered refuge in the middle of the chaos.

Ask yourself these questions: “What are my neighbors’ needs at the moment?” “How can I put in a good word for Jesus with them?” “What’s difficult for them today?” “How can I empower them to overcome that difficulty?” “How can I walk alongside my neighbor in their pain and turmoil?” “How can I show them the face of Jesus through my example?”

It is incredible to me that once I started practicing loving my neighbors—which I learned from watching my wife love our neighbors—I suddenly understood how to better help others overcome physical and spiritual poverty.

In the process of searching for spiritual poverty in my neighborhood, I spotted the spiritual poverty in my own life. I realized that I am in no way superior to the people I am trying to love for Jesus—either my neighbors, the homeless, or the impoverished around the world.

Additionally, even while trying to help people in my neighborhood, I sometimes failed to truly empower them. This is perhaps best illustrated by a simple story.

My neighbor came over all flustered, telling me that her lawnmower was broken. Of course, I volunteered my lawn mower, which I lovingly called the Terminator because it had pieces of sheet metal and car license plates holding it together. But then I realized that she likely wouldn’t be able to start it because the mower is so old and terrible.

To fix my blunder, I volunteered to run the mower myself. What I should have noticed is that my quick action caused her to feel anxious; she didn’t appreciate the invasion of privacy, as I could have easily looked into her windows while mowing her lawn. It also made her feel embarrassed, since her backyard was quite overgrown at that point. Furthermore, my response was demeaning; she felt I was assuming she couldn’t do it herself.

My dumb decision made my neighbor uncomfortable—made our relationship awkward for a while—and then ultimately forced her to buy a lawnmower right away, which she might not have been able to afford at that point. The simplest solution would have been to simply start the mower for her or show her son how to do so. Instead, I crossed the very clear line of doing something for someone that they could easily have done for themselves.

If you are ready to get involved with empowering the impoverished locally, consider how Jesus would alleviate poverty—in each and every decision. More often than not, the right way to love your neighbor is to begin with a conversation. Ask them what they’re going through. Be sensitive to their feelings or their need for privacy but be willing to listen if they want to share. This is often more effective than anything you can actually do. It communicates your love for them. Most people don’t need someone to solve their problems or tell them what they should be doing. Instead, they need someone to magnify the voice of God in their lives—to encourage them to listen to His guidance. CGM

Edited excerpt from Jesus’ Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change by John D. Barry, © 2019, published by Whitaker House. Used with permission.

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