What do people really need?
In the previous post on Benevolence in the Church Rex mentioned a discussion about which is more important, saving people from sin vs. saving people from poverty. I have to agree with Rex in saying that it is not an either or. It is a both and. Jesus didn’t walk around only saying, “I forgive you and you and you.” He also healed, made clean, restored people back to their society and community by crossing ritual purity boundaries and bringing them back/restoring them. Jesus was concerned about whole people with a multiplicity of needs. It is not a platonic dualism of physical and spiritual. Jesus was concerned about the whole person. Because of that benevolence needs to be about assessing a variety of needs (physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological, etc) in order to reach the whole person. We shouldn’t throw money at a problem and hope it will go away on its own. We also shouldn’t try to save the poor without an added concern that their physical and emotional/psychological needs are addressed as well.
When people ask questions like, “Which would you choose to help the soul or poverty?” I cannot help but think that is the question of someone who wants an excuse to keep on being ambivalent toward the poor. That is a problem. When people lose their compassion to help the needy they no longer identify with the ministry and mission of Christ.