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7-Day Practical Faith Blog: Asking Your Neighbor What They Need

James 2: 15-17

Last week in this space, I wrote about Jesus’ extremely high standard of loving your neighbor as yourself and how if we truly love God with everything that we have, then we would also love our neighbors with everything we have.

If we love others like ourselves, and love with everything we have, then I wonder if helping starts with asking what people actually need. I know that I would want to express my needs if someone wanted to help.

Some time back, I visited a Sunday School class in which the discussion turned to how to help homeless people. One woman told how she keeps bags with $5 and a nutrition bar in her car and gives them out, but she suspects that this is not always appreciated, nor is it the best thing to offer anyway.

After several people spoke, another visitor piped up. “Robbie” told the class that he was homeless himself; this was his second visit to the church. Robbie said he stays in a park across the street. He described how he requests money each day and makes just enough for food and cigarettes. Robbie said that he appreciates anything he receives, but what he wants most is enough money to actually find a place to live. But he never receives enough money to store up toward this goal.

Robbie normally eats at a nearby fast-food chicken restaurant that is closed on Sundays. So, on Sundays, he actually has to walk much farther to reach a hamburger restaurant that is open. It’s really great when he can hitch a ride to or from that restaurant.

Class was ending, but some of the members stayed to engage Robbie and ask what he needed.

I’m reminded of what the Apostle James, Jesus’ brother, wrote in James 2: 15-17:

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

The homeless can become faceless to us, but each one has their own story, their own dignity, their own needs. Whenever we stop to help a homeless person, or anyone else in need for that matter, it’s best to listen rather than to assume, and, if possible, to give what they prefer rather than what we prefer.

One of my favorite things to do, and one of the things I do best, is to speak to live audiences. I would love to speak at your church! The topic can be a 7-day practical faith topic from one of my books, or it can be a topic of your choosing. Let's get something going! Please reach out to me at

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