David L. Goetsch
Being Helpful During the COVID-19 Pandemic (Hebrews 13:16)
Updated: Apr 23, 2020
Hebrews 13:16 has direct application during the COVID-19 pandemic. This verse reads as follows: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Hebrews 13:16 is about the Christian virtue of helpfulness. Helpfulness is a willingness to give assistance, render service, or share what we have when someone else is in need. Not surprisingly, being helpful requires that we be willing to sacrifice for others.
When Christ told us in the second part of the Greatest Commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves, he meant we should be helpful to others in need. That is how Christ defined the term “neighbor.” Anyone who is in need is our neighbor. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have even more neighbors than usual and the list gets longer every day. In last week’s blog, “Christian Love During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” I provided a list of things you and I can do to show our neighbors the face of Christ during this difficult time. In today’s blog, I look at the other side of the coin: what we shouldn’t do.
BEING HELPFUL DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Ironically, being helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic is not just about what you do; it’s also about what you don’t do. For example, the first and most important way to be helpful is to follow all of the guidelines set forth by healthcare professionals and government officials in your state and local community, including the growing list of don’ts. Think of following the guidelines as your version of that statement made by Hippocrates in Of the Epidemics where he encouraged physicians to “…first, do no harm.” By obeying the “don’ts” in the COVID-19 guidelines, you can avoid doing harm to others.
A specific don’t you can avoid is taking more than you need when shopping. A lot of people are responding to the uncertainties of the pandemic by engaging in panic buying. This has left grocery store and pharmacy shelves bare of every-day essentials we all need. Many stores have responded by limiting purchases of high-demand items to one per person. Unfortunately, a lot of people are being devilishly ingenious in getting around this restriction. For example, I recently observed the husband, wife, and teenage youngsters in one family each take separate shopping carts at the local grocery store and make separate purchases, all at the same time.
I knew the family. They are long-time members of a local church. The mother had one cart, the father another, and two teenage siblings had one cart each. All four members of the family went directly to the toilet paper isle and each one of them put the limit of one package in his or her cart. Then all four went to the isle that had a very small supply of alcohol and hand sanitizers. Each family member put the limit of one container of each in his or her respective shopping cart. This left just one container of alcohol and one of hand sanitizer for the other shoppers that day. The same charade was repeated on the flour isle and at the meat counter. When finished shopping, each member of the family went through a different checkout line to avoid giving away their little scheme, a scheme that netted the family four times the limit allowed of the items they purchased.
As I followed behind the family around the grocery store, the father caught a glimpse of me approaching. As if on signal, all four of them scattered in different directions. Sadly, we are going to see this kind of behavior during the pandemic. Crises such as this bring out the best in some people and the worst in others. For example, you see this kind of behavior in the days leading up to a hurricane and in the aftermath of a tornado. What is especially sad, though, is to see fellow Christians engaging in this kind of behavior; behavior that sets the wrong kind of example for others in the community. Natural disasters, healthcare crises, and other tragedies give those of us who profess to be Christians the best opportunities we will ever have to show our neighbors the face of Christ and to apply his admonition in the Greatest Commandment.
I urge fellow believers to approach the COVID-19 pandemic not as a crisis, but as an opportunity. How we conduct ourselves during the difficult weeks ahead might turn out to be the best sermon our neighbors ever “hear.” For some it might be the only sermon they ever hear. Consequently, we need to make it a good one. There is no more effective form of witnessing for Christ than by example, particularly when our example requires us to sacrifice for others.
On the same day I observed the family cleverly skirting the one-per-shopper limit at the grocery store, I observed another individual from the same church denying herself to help another shopper. She and the other shopper arrived at the sugar isle at almost the same time. Both wanted the one remaining bag of sugar on the shelf. The Christian woman who I recognized reached it first. But instead of putting the one remaining bag of sugar in her shopping cart, she placed it in the other shopper’s cart, smiled, and said “God bless you.” The other shopper was so impressed by this act of kindness she was moved to tears. It was one of the most powerful sermons I have ever experienced.
With God’s grace, mercy, and help, we will weather this storm. In the meantime, the pandemic is presenting us with unprecedented opportunities to obey Christ’s admonition in the Greatest Commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. We can do this by being helpful to others who are struggling during these difficult times. One of the best ways to be helpful in this situation is to avoid doing things that might harm others, things like denying them access to the every-day essentials they need.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com