Keep warm and well fed

She called today. Soft-spoken, courteous, hesitant. “My husband just got laid-off,” she said. “He’s applied for unemployment, but that won’t start until next week. They’re going to turn our lights off if we don’t pay the $150 we owe. I was wondering if your church could help us?” The four churches in our small town contribute to a “ministers’ fund” which coordinates emergency help for local residents.

“Where do you live?” I asked. She was honest, “We live in Danville.” Danville is twenty miles away, not in our community, and our guidelines limit our help to the Chatham area. “I’m sorry, we have limited funds and we can only help folks in our community,” I explained. A long pause. “Well, thank you,” she said. I could hear the resignation in her voice. “God bless you,” I said. “Thank you.” She hung up. Immediately James 2:16 pushed its way into my consciousness:

“If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?”

“We have our rules. We have limited funds. We can’t help everybody,” I argued to myself. But, I could have helped her. I could have broken the rules, made an exception, listened with my heart instead of my head. Ironically, I offer the invocation tomorrow night at the Community Action Annual Dinner where our community will celebrate another year of helping the poor. Today I missed an opportunity. Maybe I can find this soft-spoken, shy woman tomorrow. Maybe we can help after all. I’ll let you know.

UPDATE:  I called Social Services today and described the lady who called me.  The case worker I spoke with said, “We have so many people in that same situation, I have no idea who it might be.”  No luck.  Maybe some other church somewhere was able to help.  I hope so.

5 thoughts on “Keep warm and well fed”

  1. Totally identify Brother! We have to make tough calls a lot that really do change lives, for good or bad. Sometimes it’s easy to hide behind “rules” or “guidelines” but often there is a good purpose behind them. Can we help everybody who really needs it? Probably not. We can do our best to discern the Spirit’s leading and do our best and keep pushing to do better and more.

  2. Marcus, thanks for the empathy. This is not a club I enjoy being a member of, so I’m going to try to listen better to both the caller and the Spirit, as you point out. BTW, I’ve been to Versailles, KY years ago when I was a sales rep for an electronics company. Seems there was an IBM plant, or something there. Anyway, thanks for dropping by and for your comment. -Chuck

  3. Some think that being full-time in ministry means one never misses an opportunity to reach out. I would hate to have it counted the number of chances to minister I have missed. I have truly been blessed by your writings and pray your ministry will continue to grow. Stop by and say hi sometime @

    1. I make faith-based films, and run into James 2:16 Christians all the time… Here is a sample conversation:

      Director: ” I am working on a new movie with a great Christian message.”
      Churchgoer: “That’s wonderful. I really support fath-based films.”
      Director: ” Great. ‘Cause we could really use some help financially in finishing this one.”
      Churchgoer: “Oh, well, that’s nice. I’ll pray for you.”

      We may not say “Be warm and well fed” anymore, but we sure toss around the “I’ll pray for you” copout. Just like James, I have to ask. What good is it?

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