I recently read a series of articles written by three well-known Christian advocates for the poor. They were asked the question whether or not we should give money to panhandlers in the street. Surprisingly (to me) two out of the three were generally opposed to it. Do you give money to street people? Today let's challenge our thinking about what we do with our money by reading two passages. The first comes from Paul’s letter to Christians who lived in the city of Ephesus.
He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. (Eph 4:28 English Standard Version)
The second passage come from Jesus, who lives, well, everywhere:
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ (Matt. 25:34-40)
In our first passage, Paul writes, “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.” Paul is saying that we should work. Why? So that we can be a blessing to others. That’s part of our financial calling. You may not think it good stewardship to give money to a street person because they may not spend it wisely but do you spend money wisely? I once read a story about CS Lewis, who was converted to Christianity later in his life. One day Lewis and a friend were walking down the road and came upon a street person who asked them for help. While his friend kept walking, Lewis stopped and proceeded to give the man everything in his wallet. When they resumed their journey, his friend asked, "What are you doing giving him your money like that? Don't you know he's just going to squander all that on ale?" Lewis thought for a moment and then replied, "That's all I was going to do with it." I appreciate Lewis’ insight. From working each week at my local food closet, I believe, in general, homeless people don’t want to be homeless. Their homelessness might be the result of some sinful life choices but it may also be the result of a house fire, mental illness or even being laid off from a job. Many street people have been abused and neglected---and the longer they live on the street the more likely they are to suffer abuse, neglect, and even physical violence. Even so, we should not give just because we feel guilty and in today’s second passage Jesus gives us a very good reason for giving to those in need: when we give to those in need we are giving to Him. You may not believe that giving money to homeless people will be good stewardship but there are other ways you can help them. You can donate to established outreach ministries. You can buy food for a homeless person. You and I can work in many creative ways to serve people who are in need. The real question is this: do you earn money so that you can give to those in need …or so that you can keep it for yourself?
Thanks for listening to today’s devotion. As Psalm 41:1 encourages us, “Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him.” It’s a blessing and a promise – and such very Good News!