A receipt was posted on Facebook yesterday. People were doing anything to get water as our city had a “don’t even turn on the faucet” alert. One person went to a store and bought three cases of water. Sure, it was name brand, but for three cases of water the total cost was between $70 and $80. It was outlandish. It was price gouging – unless they could prove that’s what they charged for cases before the alert was given. That seems to be de rigueur during times of crisis. While some people do amazing things to help others who are desperate, others will use that desperation to gouge as much money as possible out of people. We find that after hurricanes and floods; we find that when people are selling water or providing plywood to make temporary patches on holes. Those who suffer the most tend to be those who are the poorest. Desperate for water or repairs, they’ll pay what they need to greedy gougers.
Too often, decisions that are made in government do not take into account the needs of those who are poor. People who are poor are taken for granted or used as political props. People who are poor are taken advantage of in ways that many people don’t even realize often because we don’t see people in need, we just see the needy. And while the distinction is a fine one, it’s an important one. We must see anyone, in any situation as a person first. We must not think of them as their description. “He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.” (Isaiah 11:3b-4)
When we think of “the rich” or “the needy” we immediately see stereotypes, not people. “The rich” act in certain ways. They are snooty. They don’t care. “The needy” or “the poor” always have their hands out. They always want freebies. When we stereotype people, it makes life so much safer because we don’t have to deal with the actual person involved nor do we have to deal with their real needs. The truth is that everyone has needs. Sometimes those needs may relate to surviving the day. At other times those needs may relate to their quality of life. All needs eventually go back to their relationship with God. It is interesting that those who are financially needy tend to share a greater percentage of their physical wealth than those who are well off financially. Those people who are well off financially usually tend to overlook the needs of others because so often they are trying to hide their own needs. They too need the love of God, His mercy, and His grace. They just make it harder to reach them sometimes.
One good two-word description for the practice of my faith is “meeting needs.” The most obvious needs are usually financial. When we see people who are suffering, we need to support them. When we see people being taken advantage of in their poverty, we need to speak up so that justice may be done. We need to deal fairly with all people in our business dealings. At the same time, we need to recognize that many who are well off financially have needs as well. Their greatest need is in knowing that they can’t save themselves. Most of the time we work to meet those needs, it will have to be one on one rather than speaking to large groups. The one need that all people have whatever their financial status is the need to experience the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. Too often people who are wealthy won’t accept that truth. They think they are self-sufficient and have no needs of anyone saving them. People without Jesus are the neediest people on earth, whatever their financial status may be.
Oh Lord, remind me that every person I meet has needs. I can’t meet all of them. Draw me to people whose needs I can meet. Let me be willing to meet financial and spiritual needs of people around me.