Orthodox Churches Should Help the Poor

Fr. Peter-Michael Preble

By Fr. Peter Michael Preble

Last week, on the website Ethics Daily an article was posted in response to a reader’s question. The article dealt with charity and poverty and what should be and can be done. The author of the article helped me to clarify my own position on charity and what I think about the Churches role in aiding the poor and needy in our society.

In the article the author warns against charity because charity does not solve the problem long term. Oh it makes us feel good and does help but it does not get to the root of the problem. For example, we serve a meal here at the Church twice a month to about 75 people in various states of life. Some are the working poor and some just like to have a meal with the Community.

This is not a soup kitchen but a community meal because the aim is to build and support the community. But it does not end there. We are trying to break the cycle of poverty and that is a long term plan. We need to fill the immediate need, but then we need to look long term. In order to do this we need to listen to our guests to determine their needs and then try to find a way to solve them.

Using the author’s definition of the charity, he says that “charity only serves to keep the poor in poverty. Charity helps the poor get by, live for the day, or the week. A few cans of food, a bag of groceries, some secondhand clothes – and there you go.”

Cooking a meal is easy, taking up a food collection is easy, providing secondhand clothes is easy, and important, but tackling the long term problem of poverty is difficult but that is the issue at hand. The government should be there as a safety net, to help people when a crisis hits, but long term we need to teach people to help themselves.

A few years ago at a conference Metropolitan Jonah of the OCA asked where are our hospitals, where are our schools, where are our soup kitchens? They are there and they do exist, but we need many more then we have now. We need to spend far more time on the Gospel and less time on the festivals that give glory to no one but ourselves.

The next year and maybe the year after will be difficult ones here in America. The Church should be able to make it a little easier for people. We all need to reach out and help and work for justice in charity and not just charity. Each Church needs to have some kind of outreach ministry to the working poor around them.

A survey done in 2010 of the Orthodox in America states that there are some 2,300 Orthodox congregations in America. Imagine if each and every one of those congregations worked together to aid the poor and the needy around them. Open the doors of the Church and work for justice in your local neighborhood. Work with others to help the poor and the needy break the cycle. Learn the Gospel message of helping those ALL those in need and not just the ones that happen to be of the same ethnic identity of your Church.


  1. It seems to me that the news about FOCUS North America is not getting out.
    See http://www.focusnorthamerica.org/

  2. Geo Micha lopulos :

    well-said, Fr Peter! What a witness it would be if we channelled all of our energies into doing philanthropy instead of food festivals.

  3. Learn the Gospel message of helping those ALL those in need and not just the ones that happen to be of the same ethnic identity of your Church.

    A significant percentage of Orthodox priests in US received theological training in their own native language. They are gathering their own lost sheep. It is not easy to trancend all barriers of language. Their children will certainly be English speaking Christian Orthodox.

    We need to be a little bit more patient, do our own work and become beacons of Light to the world, while refraining from blaming others for what we think they should be doing. Such attitude ussually gives rise to resentment and nothing good comes out of it.

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