Quoting John Hayes from "Sub-merge" p 92:
"[Deuteronomy 15:11] is a very important verse for twenty-first-century Christians who are motivated primarily by success. Essentially, God clarifies that we will never win the war on poverty. But he goes on to command that we should pursue the battle vigorously. For us this feels like a paradox. Why fight a battle you can't win? But to God, His commands are not contradictory; His economy is indexed to obedience, not performance. We have found this verse to be critical in our spiritual formation as we attempt to wean ourselves from performance and make our incentive biblical obedience."
The verse that Hayes references is the one quoted by Jesus in Matt 26:11, when he says "you will always have the poor with you". Often in Hayes (and my) experience people take this to mean that you can't do anything about the poor, so don't worry too much about it. But this is the opposite of what the verse actually intends.
What I appreciate about Hayes quote above is that he has touched on our tendency to only want to respond to that which we can "fix". We want our ministry, our giving, our counsel, even our evangelism to be effective and efficient on our own terms -- otherwise we don't want to give them. It seems like such a waste, like pouring money down the drain. Like shining a flashlight at the sun. There is just no point.
Back in June I mentioned Luke 6:30: "Give to everyone who begs from you. . . " All summer I have been working on taking Jesus at his word on this one. There is an unbelievable amount of nuance in the lessons learned from this. At the top of the list is this: Jesus could not possibly have had in mind that you give to people, in obedience to God, in order to fix their problems.
So what is the point then? I have figured out that the obedience is about my walk and my character and how I value or understand my own wealth (time, money, insight, etc..) and how I look at others. The result has been spiritual growth for me. A rather simple sort of obedience in my life this summer has trumped my natural tendency to prefer efficiency and effectiveness. I have problably given away $100 to $150 since June. (what do you do when someone asks for money and all you have is a $20? Yep, sometimes you get mad and give it to them; sometimes you lie and say you don't have any money; then you vow to NEVER leave the house without plenty of change and $1's!!).
As someone steeped in a past decade of presbyterianism and reformed theology, committed to God being a God of order and decency, I have been seeing again this summer how my sense of effeciency and effect and giving only to what can be "fixed" is opposed to God's call to obedience. Lavish obedience. Lavish Kindness. Lavish Mercy.