I was talking to someone recently about our church’s involvement in helping homeless families obtain sustainable housing. He thought that it was great that we were helping people in this way, but then asked me whether we also look after their spiritual needs as well as their physical needs.
I’ve heard this sentiment before and I think it gets things wrong.
It comes from an imagination of the church as the place of spiritual wealth. It assumes that we have physical and spiritual resources and we have the prerogative to share these with others. When we meet physical needs, we should also share from our wealth of spiritual resources.
Jesus, however, sees things differently. In Mark 9, he says this:
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me” (vv. 35-37).
Jesus envisions the church as a place of spiritual poverty. When we serve and offer hospitality to the marginalized—those in need—we are not sharing from our spiritual wealth. We are gaining spiritual riches. We are welcoming into our fellowship Jesus himself and God, who sent him.
When we serve others by meeting their physical needs, our spiritual needs are being met—our need of the presence of Christ and of God who sent him.
Jesus radically reverses how we ought to see ourselves. Whatever our physical wealth, we are spiritually poor. We are not in a place of power and privilege; we are weak and in need.
God sustains the church with his life-giving presence when we serve others.
2 thoughts on “Meeting Physical and Spiritual Needs”
These verses come to mind.
Malachi 3:16-17 Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.17“They will be Mine,” says the LORD of Hosts, “on the day when I prepare My treasured possession. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.
At that time Michael, the great prince who stands watch over your people, will rise up. There will be a time of distress such as never has occurred from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people–everyone whose name is found written in the book–will be delivered.
James 2:15-17 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you tells him, “Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,” but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that ? 17So too, faith by itself, if it is not complemented by action, is dead.…
I believe it’s important also to encourage faith shared through the Gospel as in John Chapter 14 So that they have the seed of knowledge to trust in the Lord as man may not always be with them to help them in times of need but that they can have a friend and Savior, who sticks closer than a brother who will never leave them but will walk with the and be their personal accountability partner within their own heart and mind, if they ask the Father in the name of Jesus, inviting Him in to stay. For how would they hear these things with out a teacher? After a proper introduction this choice is now planted as a seed within their mindful thoughts.
1 John 2:27
And as for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But just as His true and genuine anointing teaches you about all things, so remain in Him as you have been taught. This is the Gospel that saves and delivers you.
Blessings to you.
I could see such a division being used to perpetuate a sharp distinction between political/material action (physical), and private/church action (spiritual). Perhaps that’s a factor contributing to the way Christians in America view the Church and her life? Either way, it seems to miss the nature of the church community as the place where those are intertwined in our life and action. Though I suppose we also don’t like to think of ourselves as spiritually weak/ needy.