Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I can tell people are scrapping for this discussion:

What should a Christian do when confronted with an apparently homeless person asking for money?


Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Short of writing a book on the subject, I don't believe this is an issue that can be honestly discussed in a question and answer format.

The question is the actual homeless person (or any other person asking for money) himself, and the answer is the result of you, a follower of Jesus, observing carefully, thinking cleanly, and encountering that person (not his professed need) in forthright dialog, to determine what his needs really are, and then making your decision and following it through.

Am I making myself clear? As I said, a book could be written (I could do it, but won't) about this subject. I've blogged a lot about encounters I've had where I did make the move to help a person, not always one who asked me for money, and there have been even more cases where I gave nothing, like the time Brock and I were begged, and we said, No, and heard a well-dressed middle-aged female "beggar" call back at us (who were standing reading the Gospel aloud downtown), "whitewashed sepulchres!" How gratifying that was! I called back in a cheerful voice, "Thank you!"

Read about this incident at:

Those were the days!

Ben said...

I think Romanos is onto something here. We can't talk about a Homeless Person in the abstract. If we are to truly love our neighbor, we need to actually know them and discern their needs. It may be they actually need food, or medical care, or maybe we shouldn't help at that time because they won't accept anything but money for drugs. But to love our neighbor, we must know him/her....or at least know his/her needs.

This is certainly's something I've never done. I've given homeless folks money and I've bought them food and I've directed them to the nearest homeless ministry....but I've never taken the time to get to know them. Usually when I run into a homeless person asking for money, I'm busily traveling from one place to the next. Talking to them for any length of time will probably make me and them uncomfortable and it certainly will be an imposition on my schedule. For this, I repent.

I think in this, as in all things, we should hit upon one of the constant themes of Kenny's blog - we must rely upon the grace of God. We must pray for his divine wisdom and for the will to be faithful to his commandment of love instead of to our own interests. And we know we'll probably screw up...but can rely upon the amazing grace of God through Christ to forgive us where we screw up and keep us from living in fear of failure.

Let us praise God and pray for each other that we may truly love.

kennyching said...

Thanks guys, for these really good comments, and non-canned comments

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Ben, you wrote, "Usually when I run into a homeless person asking for money, I'm busily traveling from one place to the next. Talking to them for any length of time will probably make me and them uncomfortable and it certainly will be an imposition on my schedule. For this, I repent."

In fact, Ben, that's very common because, at least where I live, the "homeless" (if that's really what they are) cluster at the entrances and exits to highways. Gone are the days where they gathered on the church steps! Be that as it may, I do not respond 95% of the time, and much for the same reasons you cited, "I'm busily traveling from one place to the next." Now, not to dismiss our individual or corporate sinfulness in letting these opportunities to show mercy pass us by, I would still counsel restraint in your "repentance" for doing so. God knows our situation and theirs. In many cases, from God's point of view, it is we who should be receiving alms, not they, and I'm not being facetious. It's best not to make oneself feel guilty for a possible sin of omission, because that only makes it harder to for us to commit ourselves to an act of mercy the next time.

This is an example of when I have felt sorry for not stopping and helping a beggar: A week or two ago, I was being driven by my oldest son to meet one of my other sons, and they were taking me out for lunch (that's right, it was Father's Day). We momentarily got lost, and in getting back on the highway, we passed a particular corner in the Hollywood district, and a young man, between 17 and 20, was standing there holding up a nicely lettered sign asking for any help he could get. His sign didn't have the usual "God bless you" or "all I really need is prayer, but…". Instead, it asked humbly for help, declared his homelessness, and said even a blanket would help. I don't claim to have any special gifts of clairvoyance, but when I look, really look, at a man, I can often tell things that I shouldn't know. I think most people could do this, if they tried.

I looked very hard at this young man, and loved him, and in the couple of seconds it took for the light to change, I knew that I should and could have helped him. But I was the passenger, being driven by a very goal-oriented son on a very different kind of "mission." I wanted to help, and very badly. If it had been me driving, I would have taken the risk to roll down the window and cry out, "Get in!" to that young man. I know that's very risky on both his side and on mine, but from what I saw in his face, I was pretty sure that he would've followed my instructions. Then, God would've shown me what to do. But that's not what happened. The light changed to green suddenly, and we drove off. The boy had not even noticed me looking at him.

After lunch, my son brought me back to where my car was parked in the church parking lot. I said my goodbyes and thanks for remembering me on Father's Day sort of thing, and then I quickly started my car and made a dash for that corner where I saw the young man. Would he still be there? It was about three hours since I'd seen him. I got to that corner and he was gone. I just remembered him to the Father, and thanked the Lord for providing, as I knew He would, more than I could have given. I didn't feel guilty because I knew that if I ran across this youngster, or any other like him, again, who was in need and that need revealed to me, I would not hesitate to act.

This is a long story, but it's just part of the answer to these questions we ponder. Christ have mercy on us, and send people to us that we can love, help and minister to, as He sees fit.