I was sitting on the porch of our house in the mountains enjoying the cool breeze when a neighbor’s little dog was standing in his yard all alone. Why was he standing there in the same spot and only bark once every five minutes? Did he need help or was he just a spoiled dog that wanted attention? Was he truly in need?

As I sat in comfort on my front porch swing, I thought there must be a message that is trying to be conveyed to me by the Holy Spirit in the actions being played out across the street.  What could I learn from this dilemma I was witnessing?  

I immediately thought of people standing on the streets asking for money. They don’t bark when asking for help, they hold signs. Some signs say, “will work for food” “anything helps” “homeless”, etc. Whatever the signs say it means they are asking for help. Are they legit?

Serving as missionaries in Mexico and on the Apache Indian Reservation we (my wife and I) learned a lot about people in need and the types of people asking for help. We also learned that there is an emotional/social way and a Biblical way to discern when and who to help. The reasons and styles differ greatly. The differences to be discussed are for another article.

I reason there are several different classes of people asking for help (barking). First there are the people who are truly in need. Scared, alone, lost, without hope, struggling and lonely. There are a variety of reasons they are in the predicament they are in and they legitimately need help and deserve it.

Then, there are the people who feel they are victims and need help. Life, society, their boss, parents, circumstances etc. are the cause of their problems and if it weren’t for them they could be successful. It is not their fault. Society, the government and others owe them!  However, they want no responsibility or will accept none for the situation they are in.

Finally, there are people who do not need help but they know how the system works and they bleed it for all they can get. They pretend to be poor, victimized, abused and taken advantage of. They play the emotional game on others to get help, pity and compassion. And it works. 

What are we to do when strangers cry out (bark) for help? Just looking at people will not give you the answers to their legitimacy.  People can look poor, ragged and down and out while not be in the need of help at all; they are just working the system. Then there are people who are presentable in their appearance while all along they are in desperate need financially, spiritually and emotionally. Looks are not the deciding factor. Both society and most religions tell us to help the poor, widows and orphans, and those in need and they are both correct. We should. I will stay out of the discussion concerning how and when society should intervene and assist those in need because I disagree with the way the government is handling that problem. 

We must remember that all people who say they need assistance may not be in need. As Christ followers, we are commanded to help others but we are also commanded to be good stewards of what we have. With that in mind, I rely on 1 Thess. 5:21 to help guide me; “but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good,” as I decide who to help. 
Helping those in need (the poor) usually means giving then tangible things like money, clothing, food, shelter etc. From what I read in scripture we should discern when it is
proper to give to others and not to just give because people tell you they are in need.  We do that by studying the scriptures. Many people just work the system and do not want to work. The decision of when and who to help is up to you and God.

As for the little dog across the street? Later on, I found out the answer to my question. The little guy is old, blind, was alone in the yard and scared, I’m sure. Even though the steps are only a few feet away (which he can’t climb because he is crippled) and at the top of the steps the front door is open (which he can’t see because he is blind) and he could enter and be safe but he does not know that because of his condition. He knows he can’t do it alone so he calls out for help. I realized his constant bark is a cry for help and he stands there, alone and frightened, waiting, hoping to be rescued. His owner came out, picked him up and took him in the house where I am sure he felt safe. As a dog lover, I felt sad for that little guy. After learning the facts, yes, he did truly need help. Just like the little dog, people that are truly in need should be helped; however, discernment is in order before you help.

Blessings, Dennis

Parting scripture to ponder; Proverbs 19:15, Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger. (a lazy person will not eat)

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