As I sit at a traffic light in my city, I notice someone standing on the corner. They hold a sign asking for help. The signs usually say something like; “Unemployed, need food” or “Wife sick, need help” We have all seen them around our cities and towns. They has become so common place that I would bet most of us do not even see them anymore. With our mission work in poorer countries, we come face to face with beggars that are in desperate situations as you can see by the attached photo from Nepal. It is heart breaking to see such poverty and such need combined in one human. But what about the beggars we see daily in our lives that don’t look like they are in real need?
Someone called into a Christian radio station this morning to say they had given money to a street person recently and now they felt guilty because they were not sure if that was that the right thing to do. The radio caller was worried about what the man was going to do with the money she gave him. Many people I have talked with over the years have very strong opinions on this subject. I hear the common arguments like, “They will probably just buy drugs or alcohol with the money I give them.” or “They are capable of working and just being lazy.” Are these arguments just excuses to get us off the hook of helping others? As Christians, what is our responsibility towards those we see begging in the streets of our cities?
There are many verses in the bible that talk about poverty and about helping others. The one that I think address this question most directly is found in the gospel of Matthew:
Matthew 5:42 “Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
I don’t think it gets much more direct that that verse. But most of us are are still concerned about the motives of those asking for help. When we do not give because of our perception of how the person will the money, we become judge and jury of that person. We think we know their motives and we do not want to contribute to their bad choices in life. So we do not give. It is only Jesus that knows the true motives of the heart. I believe there are times when the Lord presses it upon my heart to give to a certain homeless person and that is when I give. I think the Lord’s prompting needs to be our driving force in giving to the homeless and not our judgement of the person. I do not give to ever person I see on the street corners. I give when I feel the Lord says to help. God knows the heart and motives of those begging and I have to rely on Him to direct me. What the beggar does with the money I give to them is between him and the Lord. That beggar will be held accountable someday for how he uses the money that the Lord provided. As a Christian, I am called to help those the Lord shows to me and not judge them. If I don’t give when the Lord directs me, then I will be held accountable someday for my actions. When we do give, we are also called to be a joyful giver and not grumble as shown in the verse below:
2 Corinthians 9:7 “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Several other verses in the bible show us what we might be missing out on if we do not help those that the Lord directs us to help. In Hebrews we find that sometimes that beggar may not be whom they seem to be:
Hebrews 13:2 “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”
That is quite a reality check for me. That beggar might be an angel in disguise. If the Lord directs me to help someone and I do not then someday when I get to heaven I might hear the Lord speak these words found in Matthew to me directly:
Matthew 25: 42 “For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
I do understand that not every beggar is in true need of help. Not every beggar is going to use the money wisely. Not every beggar is homeless or helpless. As Christians, our responsibility is to rely on God. If God directs you to give to a homeless person, then you should give and not think about it again. Let God be the judge.