When I was younger, I always thought helping others meant the needy, as in those who are poor, who don't have enough money. To me, giving money was the main way to help others.
I thought that I have done my part of helping as long as I give offerings above my tithes faithfully so that the church can use it to help the orphans, single parents, widows and old folks.
However, I soon began to realise that the needy weren't only those who were lacking monetarily and there was much more I can do to help.
Some just need help with their studies - I can help by proofreading a friend's assignment.
Some just need a companion - I can help by being a listening ear.
Some just need some guidance - I can help by sharing my experience of an issue.
When we begin to look beyond the surface, we can reach out to many souls in need. See the need and meet it. We should help, shouldn't we?
Helping gone wrong
I have a soft heart for people to the extent that people said I was over naïve. I remember always looking at beggars who come to us at the food court begging for money. If I was alone, I would almost always end up giving them some money. However I soon found out this didn't really help them. They would still be begging for money the next day or worst, sometimes they even use the money to buy cigarettes. This made me lose heart in wanting to help them.
Another incident was when a friend asked for help with an assignment and wanted to have a look at mine. I thought I was helping him by showing it to him. Alas, he ended up copying an entire paragraph of my assignment! He probably didn't really learn much as only the paragraph he copied from me had no errors but his other paragraphs were full of grammatical errors.
When we help others, sometimes things don't turn out the way we expect it would. We question ourselves and wonder if we should not have helped them instead.
Helping is not doing it for them
Helping others is what we should do, but many of us get tired of helping others probably because we end up in a cycle where the people we help becomes dependent on us and expects us to provide for them or do it for them. Many of us mistaken helping others as doing it all for them, while healthy helping actually requires the one being helped to be actively involved in the process.
Giving the beggars money might not be real help, but introducing them to some jobs is. Then one can earn his own wages and have a steady income. Giving my assignment might not be real help, but discussing the assignment and brainstorming it together is. Then one can acquire the research skills and techniques required to complete one’s studies.
Helping is teaching one to fish
Lao Tzu, a famous Chinese philosopher says, “If you give a hungry man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”
Have we been giving others fish without teaching them how to catch one? While it might be easier to just give them a fish and leave, we are not really helping that person. We would only increase their dependency on us which not only depletes our energy and resource but also impedes their growth.
Teaching others to fish requires time, energy and effort from both the helper and the one being helped, but it also has a lasting impact on their lives. We need to go the extra mile if we really want to help others. Teaching them to fish provides room for them to learn to be diligent with their hands and no longer have to rely on us.
Helping turns others into a blessing
By giving them a fish, they don't have more than that fish to give to others. When we teach them to fish, they'll be able to catch fishes to give to others. This in turn transforms them from one who is needy, to one who can bless the needy.
Ephesians chapter 4, verse 28(emphasis added) summarises this goal nicely, “Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.”
Yes we should help others. However, we should remember to help them with wisdom. We shouldn’t do it all for them and by doing so rob them of their chance to grow and be a blessing to others. I will aim to help others wisely.
Esther Koh is a stay-at-home mum living in Wellington with her husband and two sons. She loves people and has a passion for helping others find their purpose for living.
Esther Koh’s previous articles may be viewed at