Hope for the Homeless and the Poor
Joe is a military veteran in the United States. Personal and family tragedies left him homeless for some 18 years. One year he began to visit a local public library, where he sometimes conversed with a librarian. Those conversations changed his life.
Martín, a young man in Argentina, felt spiritually empty. Life seemed purposeless to him. In his search for meaning, he left home and ended up living on a beach. But instead of finding the answers he was seeking, he became deeply depressed. In tears, he begged God: “If you exist, please help me to find you.” What was the outcome? We shall see.
PEOPLE become homeless for various reasons. Some, like Joe, experience personal tragedies. Others, like Martín, simply opt out of “normal” life, seeing it as a meaningless routine. Still others become homeless because of poverty, natural disasters, domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, mental illness, a lack of affordable housing, or loss of employment.
Once thought to be limited to developing lands or those battered by war or economic depression, homelessness has “emerged as a major social issue in most developed nations,” says psychology professor Paul Toro. * Contributing factors may include government policies regarding aid to low-income families and a widening gap of income inequality.
Many people are anxious about tomorrow. Some, however, have lessened their anxiety by considering what the Bible says about the future—a topic that we will touch on shortly. The Bible can also help us now by giving us sound principles to live by—principles that enhance both our economic security and ouremotional health, as Joe and Martín discovered for themselves.
THE BIBLE CHANGED HIS LIFE
“Joe seemed intelligent, mannerly, and humble,” said Cindi, who often saw him in the library where she worked. As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, she gave him copies of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines and invited him to attend a Christian meeting. There he was treated with kindness and respect, so he began to attend regularly. He also accepted a personal Bible study, which was offered to him by one of the men in the congregation.
Joe found much comfort in what he learned, and he began to apply Bible teachings, even though this meant making big changes in his life. For example, he learned that life is a divine gift, which should be treated with respect, and that smoking pollutes the body. (Psalm 36:9) Therefore, he gave up smoking, in harmony with the principle stated at 2 Corinthians 7:1: “Let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh.” Of course, Joe’s decision not only benefited his health but also saved him money.
Having taken to heart the Bible’s advice that we should do what we can to care for our own material needs, Joe began to look for work. * (1 Thessalonians 4:11, 12) “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and find enjoyment in his hard work,” says Ecclesiastes 2:24. That joy is also a result of self-respect, for honest work dignifies us. And it enables us to assist the needy.—Ephesians 4:28.
Seeing Joe’s sincerity, “the congregation embraced him,” said Cindi, and “some helped him to apply for suitable housing and other things for which he was eligible.” Joe continued to make progress and in time was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now he can speak from personal experience when he encourages others to acquire wisdom from God, as found in the Bible.—Proverbs 3:13, 14.
HE FOUND LIFE’S PURPOSE
Martín began to search for the meaning of life when he was 20 years old. “I investigated religions and philosophies and took drugs,” he said, “hoping to fill the emptiness I felt within, but to no avail.” He lived in California, U.S.A., for a while and then went to Hawaii. “I thought I had found paradise,” he recalled. But beautiful scenery did not fill the void. “I became so overwhelmed with depression,” he recalls, “that I even contemplated suicide.” It was at that point in his life that he wept uncontrollably and begged God, “If you exist, please help me to find you.”
Martín remembered that earlier he had seen a sign that read “Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” He decided to go there to attend a Christian meeting. “I walked in with long hair and a beard, and I had on the clothes I had been wearing for months,” he said. “Nevertheless, I was warmly welcomed.” Martín accepted a personal Bible study and regularly walked from his “home” on the beach to the town square to have his Bible study there.
“People were amazed at the changes I was making”
Martín’s new outlook on life soon became apparent as he applied the same Bible principles that helped Joe, mentioned earlier, to take control of his life. Martín took more interest in his appearance, and with the help of the Witnesses, he found a job and a place to live. “Previously, I was known as the homeless man in the square,” he said, “but now local people were amazed at the changes I was making.”
Later, Martín returned to Argentina, where he was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now he treasures the privilege of helping other spiritually hungry ones to find the answers to life’s big questions.
WHEN HOMELESSNESS AND POVERTY WILL BE NO MORE
Jeremiah, an ancient servant of God, lived through a time of great distress. A cruel enemy invaded his homeland and took many of his people into exile and slavery. (Lamentations 1:3) Although spared, Jeremiah lost virtually everything he owned. In grief, he prayed: “Remember my affliction and my homeless state.”—Lamentations 3:19.
Despite his sufferings, Jeremiah did not cave in to despair. Why? For one thing, he knew that Jehovah would not abandon him. (Jeremiah 1:8) For another, he was a student of the Scriptures, which tell of a time when poverty and suffering will cease to exist and will be replaced by true peace and security.—Psalm 37:10, 11.
Those conditions will come about, not by human efforts, but by means of a perfect government called God’s Kingdom. (Daniel 7:13, 14) The King of that Kingdom is none other than Jesus Christ, who displayed great compassion for the poor when he was on earth as a man. (Luke 7:22; 14:13) Under his rule, “the righteous will flourish, and peace will abound . . . He will rescue the poor who cry for help, also the lowly one and whoever has no helper. From oppression and from violence he will rescue them.”—Psalm 72:7, 12, 14.
Jesus made God’s Kingdom the focus of his teaching. (Luke 4:43) He even taught people to pray: “Let your Kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also on earth.” (Matthew 6:9, 10) What will life on earth be like when God’s Kingdom is in full control? The Bible gives us appealing previews. For example, it says of the subjects of God’s Kingdom:
“They will build houses and live in them, and they will plant vineyards and eat their fruitage. They will not build for someone else to inhabit, nor will they plant for others to eat. . . . The work of their hands my chosen ones will enjoy to the full.”—Isaiah 65:21, 22.
“They will sit, each one under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the mouth of Jehovah of armies has spoken.”—Micah 4:4.
That sure hope can buoy us up during our trials. At the same time, Bible principles can help us to live meaningful and satisfying lives even now, as Joe, Martín, and many others have discovered. Indeed, our Creator, Jehovah God, gives us this guarantee: “The one listening to me will dwell in security and be undisturbed by the dread of calamity.” (Proverbs 1:33) May those words prove to be true in your life!
^ par. 6 Because of conflict, violence, or persecution, millions of people have been forced from their homes, becoming refugees or internally displaced persons. This problem was discussed in the January 22, 2002, issue of Awake!
^ par. 11 Some people who want to work are unable to, perhaps because of disability, ill health, or old age. God disapproves of the one who “does not want to work.”—2 Thessalonians 3:10.