The Truly Worthy Poor

by FCS Ministries on

By Bob Lupton People who give to those in need want to be assured that their gifts are used wisely. I certainly do. I don’t want my alms squandered by the irresponsible or unscrupulous. Since I am often in the position to determine who will or will not be given aid, I’ve attempted to establish a set of criteria by which to judge the worthiness of a potential recipient.




A truly worthy poor person:

is a widow above 65 years of age living alone in deteriorating housing; has no family or relatives nearby to care for her; has no savings; is disabled and cannot work; exists off her monthly social security check; is a woman of prayer and faith; trusts God to meet her needs; never asks anyone for help but graciously accepts what people bring to her; is not cranky.


A truly worthy poor family:

is close knit; has a working father who holds down two minimum wage jobs; has a stay-at-home mother who makes the kids obey, washes and irons clothes by hand and does not buy junk food; will not accept welfare; always pays rent and bills on time; has no automobile but is always punctual; kids do not cuss or tell lies.


A truly worthy poor person:

is a young man, out of school, not living off his mother; is unemployed but diligently applies for jobs every day; accepts gratefully any kind of work for any pay offered; does not smoke, drink, or use drugs; attends church regularly; does not sleep around; wears freshly pressed clothes (belted at waistline); is always clean shaven.


A truly worthy poor person:

is a young mother in public housing (only temporarily); has illegitimate children conceived prior to becoming a Christian; is now celibate; tithes her welfare check and food stamps; is a high school dropout but manages her finances well; reads books to her children and limits their TV watching to educational programs; prepares nutritious meals; walks everywhere to save bus fare; keeps her apartment spotless; insists on volunteering in exchange for food at the church food pantry; will not accept cash from family or friends that violates welfare rules.


I want to serve truly worthy poor people. The problem is, I can’t seem to find any. One of my fellow staff workers thought she recalled seeing one of them back in the early 1980’s but couldn’t remember for sure. She also reminded me that to be truly poor probably meant that one was desperate, clutching at every straw, impatient, manipulative, obsessed with immediate needs, little energy left for future planning. But truly worthy? Is any one of us, after all, truly worthy?


With tongue in cheek,

Bob Lupton

Image credit: Luis Felipe Salas

1 Comment