Responding to begging

Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed. (Proverbs 28:27)

I don’t know if it’s the changing economy, if it’s because I lived in Maine for the five years before coming here, or if I was just oblivious, but in recent years it seems I am constantly confronted with need. It is rare to drive between my home and the church and not see someone, somewhere, along the road with some sort of handmade sign asking for help. And most drivers do exactely what the person wrote in their Postsecret card above: pretend not to see them.

We justify our reluctance to help with a variety of reasons; we don’t know their situation, we don’t know if the’re faking, we don’t know how they’ll use the assistance we give. What if they’re unwise with it? Use it for drugs or alcohol?

Here’s where I struggle, though, and my nagging sense of guilt and conviction plagues me. I don’t see a screening process in the Bible for helping those who ask for help. It actually seems the opposite, that God is okay with generosity being abused if it means those who need help get it. I think we feel possessive of ‘our’ money and we want to make sure someone deserves it or warrants it before we’ll give it to them – we want control. But God’s point is that He calls us to give when asked, and if we do so, we honor Him – regardless of how the recipient uses it. He calls those who ask for help to do so responsibly, and they honor Him when they do so. So if they abuse it, their sin is to Him, not me.

So all that to say, when I avert my eyes while someone stands next to my car holding a sign asking me for help, I wonder if I’m not exercising wise caution but actually making excuses to hang on to money I’d rather blow on things for myself than a stranger. Which makes me tremendously uncomfortable.

Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. (Luke 6:30)

Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow. (Matthew 5:42)

Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)

If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD—and he will repay you! (Proverbs 19:17)

5 thoughts on “Responding to begging

  1. Well said. Several years ago, I took my youth group on a Mission trip to Atlanta, GA. At that time, the economy was not as bad as it is now, and we didn't see many people on the streets asking for help at home. But, in Atlanta, we worked in a homeless shelter and got to know the people there. It completely changed our view of homeless people and those begging for help. One of the pastors there told the group, "God doesn't hold you accountable for how someone uses the money you give them. He DOES hold you accountable for whether you help someone in need." That was a life-changing trip for me, and once people started showing up in my town with those signs, I remembered those words and the people I met there, and I rarely drive by without giving something. James says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

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  2. Excellent post! Well stated. I get uncomfortable and then judgmental when I see folks holding signs. That is my way of talking myself out of being generous. But your points are solid and well received. It is soooo true that I have NOTHING that was not given to me by God. Great reminder!

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  3. I had to come back to this post and let you know that you helped to change the way I view the people on the corners. I did always have the thought that 1 – I give to other charities that are created to help people needing help like this and 2 – I don't know their situation and it could be a con. Once I saw a man hop right out of a wheel chair and walk to a car waiting for him which made me view everyone on a corner with skepticism.

    Well, this past week I came out of Home Depot and upon driving from the parking lot saw a man standing on the corner with a sign. I had to decide what I was going to do. He looked scary….. I was alone….. but I decided to just DO IT! I pulled over and handed him a bit of money out the passenger side window. He thanked me kindly and I drove off. I have no idea what he will use the money for and I don't need to know. I drove away knowing that was the right thing to do. No more averting my eyes or pretending they are not standing there.

    I did realize after I put my window down that my purse was laying right in the passenger side seat and for future plans THAT was not a good idea. 🙂

    Just wanted to let you know, I did it and it just felt right and I probably never would have if I hadn't read your post.

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