Hey there, Tony.
Great questions! You ask “what do you mean by ‘in need’?” and “what do I mean by ‘help’?” In the text, I gave specific examples for each group.
Here’s examples of "those in need” I cited—
“…ministering to the marginalized of his day, the poor, the outcast, those with physical needs and mental issues, and even the reviled.”
Yes, I qualified those examples with the phrase “of his day,” but (as Christ said we would always and) still have those groups of people with us, so it’s safe to assume it’s still okay for us to follow Christ’s example and help them. I figured widows, orphans, and enslaved people would naturally make the cut, so I didn’t list them early on. But I did include them later in the text—
“How about continuing the work Christ began by caring for the homeless, the needy, widows, orphans, and the sick … Puerto Rico’s go a few people who could use some serious humanitarian aid … giving up cray talk about a wall to keep the less fortunate out … outlawing the reprehensible pracice of separating children from their parents … swapping the whole “I got mine, and that’s all that matters” worldview for a more “do unto other” or “helping the least of these” mindset…”
Not to beat this thing to death here, but Christ says that people who merciful are blessed. (See the Beatitudes.) Idunno about you, but if showing mercy to someone is good is Christ’s eyes, that’s something I want to do. And it’s something all Christians should want to do, too.
You mentioned Paul’s admonition against feeding “sluggards” and those who refuse to work. Great point. But I’m not addressing those who refuse to work. And I think you know that.
Have you taken the time to speak with any people who have been marginalized? Let me back up a little, by marginalized I mean people who are treated as insignificant, less than, not deserving (more recognizable as the poor, the less fortunate, the homeless, people who’ve lost their jobs because their companies are more interested in increasing the bottom line, minorities, immigrants, you know … those people).
The people I’ve encountered who have been marginalized are not the people Paul is referring to. I can’t speak for all, but a significant number of this country’s marginalized people would relish the opportunity to have a job—any job, I won’t limit the type of job by saying one that pays a living wage so that they can gain access to that which would make their lives a markedly better.
But there’s something you’re missing in Paul’s statement, three words—
Some. Of. You.
Some is not all.
Paul didn’t infer “all,” nor did he infer “most.” If you’re familiar with Paul’s writings, you know that he was never at a loss for words. He had no problem expressing his thoughts. So given that several translation include the word “some,” chances are he did not paint the subject of his warning with the “all” paintbrush. For Christians to use that type of specious logic is to sidestep the crux of Christ’s teachings of mercy and caring for one another is exactly the point John is addressing in his question—
How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
I hope that helps.