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)