You’ve probably all seen the movie. The community is in havoc and needs a hero to save it… Along comes Superman to rescue the people, free the city and save the day.
How often do we take the same “hero” approach in our service to the poor? We serve with a motivation to accomplish something for ourselves and for our own personal significance and gain. And in the process we reduce the poor to objects of our charity that are merely helping to perpetuate our personal pride and selfishness. We end up serving out of our own neediness, brokenness and sinfulness, not for the well being of the recipient and certainly not for the glory of God.
Brian Fikkert, in the book, When Helping Hurts, describes this attitude as a “god-complex.” The subtle sense of superiority that shows we believe that we have achieved our wealth through our own efforts and that this success somehow anoints us with the ability to decide what is best for low-income people, whom we often see as inferior to ourselves. (pg. 65)
Many people living in poverty already struggle with a sense of inadequacy and all our benevolence does is re-enforce their shame. We actually exacerbate the very issues we are trying to solve. This does not mean that we should stop serving but rather that we should always check our motives and serve from a humble heart.
Serving through brokenness
Our service to the poor should not come from an attitude of authority but rather a heart of brokenness. An admission and realization that both you and I need fixing and only Jesus can provide it. The more deeply connected we are to the message of the cross the more our serving becomes about loving the poor and not loving ourselves. About loving because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) We all need healing and there is no better place to express it then in our humble attitude towards serving the poor.
The poor don’t need heroes. The poor need people who are willing to walk with them in their circumstances and be their friends, collaborators, encouragers and advocates. People who will show them value, worth and dignity by recognizing their own mutual brokenness and need for God. People willing to be real and vulnerable and ready to admit their need for God’s grace and healing.
Clark Kent (Superman) was known as the “champion of the oppressed.” Sometimes our tendency as humans is to want to be like superman and save the day while being the champion for the poor. Let’s be their “champion” but let’s do it in a way that gives God the glory and not ourselves. The question we must continually ask ourselves is this: Why do you want to help the poor? Let’s take a moment to examine our motives…and if need be, hang up those superman costumes for good.