I stopped on my way out of Target and gave some money to a guy begging for money on the corner. This is the first time I have done this in, I do not remember when. You see, I have a real problem in my mind that I have been struggling with for some time.
About 12 years ago I did a drama at church. It consisted of a guy (me) standing on a dark street waiting for someone when all of the sudden I hear someone calling for help down a dark ally. In the drama I justify with God why surely He does not mean me. Surely God does not want or expect me to help this person. There were many ways in the drama I justified why I should not do this.
We were having company after church that day, so I needed to run home between services to put stuff in the oven. On my way home, there was a guy standing on the corner with a sign that said “will to work for food. God Bless.” As I drove by, I was reminded how much this was like my drama. I instantly pleaded with God, surely you do not mean me? What can I do. I already have people coming for dinner. I got home and really felt convicted about it and decided if he was still there I would ask him to come to church and then dinner. He was gone.
I have struggled all these years with people who do not seem to want to work and for whatever reason do not, but can beg for money on the side of the road. I remember once in Chicago seeing a very crippled person sitting on the street begging for money. One morning my wife and I were going to eat and we saw that person being dropped off in a Limo. Then I heard a 60 minutes program on just how much some of these people make and how people actually pimp them to make money.
I have also always been told if you give them money they will just buy drugs or alcohol. Not wanting to support their bad habits or illegal activities I chose not to give to them at all.
My sister was in San Francisco when a homeless hit her and my nephew up for some cash. My sister said that she does not give cash, but would rather buy a meal. The homeless person quickly pointed out a McDonalds. So my sister said “Ok I will bye you a Big Mac and fries. Do you want a Coke or a Sprite?” The homeless person said “How about a chocolate malt?” My sister, feeling she was being taken advantaged of, was quick to point out the old saying ‘Beggars can’t be choosers’ and ask again if he wanted a Coke or Sprite. I think even the homeless guy laughed and my sister purchased him a meal. I have this same feeling of being taken advantage of in situations like this, and just do not want to deal with it.
Then I remember walking around in Cambridge, England. I was all alone and checking out the city. The homeless were everywhere. One young man dropped to his knees and pleaded with a couple coming out of a restaurant with a bag of what looked like leftovers. My heart sunk with the look of desperation in this man. With his lack of humiliation he pleaded openly in a crowded street for this bag of food until the couple gave it to him. It bothered me so much that I went back to my room and spent the rest of the evening where I would not have to see and deal with these images
I have driven in cities and have had someone come up and start cleaning my windshield then asking for money. I quickly say no. I try to avoid eye contact and overall try to avoid these situations all together.
Each time, I have been convicted that I need to be doing something. Oh, I am quick to point out to God that He surely does not mean me. I justify that they will just use this money for drugs or alcohol or that these people can get a job anywhere in this town and if they really wanted to work they could work. I will say like my sister does that I will buy them a meal but not give them money, but in reality, I do nothing I avoid the situation often driving out a different route to avoid them.
So today as I was going to Target I saw this person at the corner and again I was convicted. I went in and purchased a sandwich for me and made sure I had some money that I could give this person. Man, I struggled to do this. I almost talked myself out of it, but in the end I stopped and gave this young man some money. I would like to tell you that I shared the good news with him, but I did not. I had a hard time even looking at him. I pulled over and handed him some money and said here you go. He said God Bless You and I drove away.
Now this man may go out and blow it on drugs or alcohol or get picked up in his limo, but it does not matter. You see this was not about the beggar or the money I gave him, it was about me and my heart.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
God is not saying in this passage that the Government should be doing this, He is talking about his sheep. He is talking about you and me, his bride, his church. It is our heart and our actions that he is talking about. I am not talking about wealth redistribution or huge sums of money. I am not saying that this will not continue to be a struggle for me. I don’t like being taken advantage of, but this is more then that; this is about my heart and doing what I am called – and I am working on listening to God.