Thursday, January 22, 2015

They

I'm struggling with something this morning, so, of course, I am going to turn to my blog and then post it on Facebook as this is the source of all wisdom. I'm struggling with how I feel about the people at the top of the off ramp at Medical Center. It seems like there are 4-5 different ones that rotate. It's not just them though, its everyone standing on a ramp, corner, whatever, holding a sign asking for money.

Part of me says "get a job!!" Part of me says, "Giving them a dollar will in no way cause me any troubles, go ahead and give."

Part of me is quite prejudiced. I "prejudge" what they will do with the money. "Probably just go buy alcohol or drugs," I say to myself. "Tough love to not give them money." Another part of me says, "that is stupid. They are stuck in such a dark place that they can only survive by soliciting money on an interstate ramp."

Still another part of me is just uncomfortable. "Those people" remind me just how privileged I am. Yes, I worked hard to get where I am. Yes, I earned a lot and yes I made good decisions that got me here. BUT, I was also blessed with great parents, a great wife, a fantastic up-bringing, amazing teachers, abilities and gifts from our creator and much more. I have been blessed by family members that were frugal and smart and left legacies. I acknowledge that everything I have did NOT just come from me. "They" remind me that not everyone has it as good as I do. "They" remind me that I could have been in their shoes with just a few decisions going the other way. "They" bring up guilt, compassion, introspection. "They" make me uncomfortable in my nice car, headed to my nice office, having left my nice home in my nice clothes.



So I ignore them. 99.9% of the time I ignore them. I consciously look straight ahead or make sure I am a lane of traffic away from them at the red light. Maybe if I don't look, they will just go away. I secretly breath a sigh of relief when I pull up and "they" aren't there. "Whew, I can get through the red light without feeling bad."

I know this is not what God wants. Matthew 25:31-46. I am ignoring God. Giving to "these people" is an act of love. It is giving of myself to someone in a worst position. It doesn't matter how they got there. It doesn't even matter what they do with the love I give them. How often do I not do the right thing with the love God gives me. I need to share with "them." I need to minister to "them." When I say "minister," I don't mean preach, I mean help. They don't need church. They don't need programs. They need help. They need the Jesus that was in John 8:1-11.

So how do I do it? Do I hand each of "them" a buck? Do I put them in my car and buy them a burger? I don't know yet. I don't know what the "best" answer is. I think I can start by NOT ignoring them.

What do you think?
What do you do?

2 comments:

Justin Steidinger said...

Jonathon, great question and a question/perspective I have spent some time praying about over the past year. I could go on about this at length but a couple of things I want to say in short form.

First, remember that the attacks of Satan are waged in our mind through outside influence. He tries to get us to dwell on though and then respond with our authority and action to what he wants. It is entirely possible that Satan is using people to fund his bondage over a poor person. It is also entirely possible that Satan is using situations of the poor to cause us to become desensitized to them. We need the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to help us overcome. Renew our minds in the word (Romans 12:1-2)

A short snippet on Matt 25:31-46. Jesus said, "...whatever you do to the least of these brothers of mine..." Who is Jesus' brother? Are all people his brothers? Are they all, as brothers, heirs with him? I believe Jesus is referring to the brothers in Christ who are hungry, imprisoned and persecuted for the Gospel. I don't believe this verse is referring to everyone poor, imprisoned, etc. This is not to say we should not feed the poor, imprisoned, etc. just that listening to this scripture and allowing it to condemn you when in fact the person you are responding to is not a brother is exactly the type of mind trick Satan likes to play with God's word. So, from my perspective, I don't view a random poor person as a "brother" as referred to in Matt 25. Rather, they are the poor who need the gospel preached to them.

So, practically, how do I respond. Well, first our response should be the response of love. For me, that is my time which is a much more valuable resource to me than my money. I have several times stopped and asked folks if I could buy them dinner with full intention of taking them to Outback, Chop House, Chili's or someplace nice. Most of the time I get, "Man, I'm starving but I can't afford to go to dinner. I have to stay here to make money to live." I think this says a lot about their character and motivation. The challenging part about this question of "Could I buy you dinner?" is you have to be ready to do it if they say yes and jump in your car. And, your time at dinner should be about loving them, getting to know them, caring for what they have to say, etc. A large part of this process involves listening to the Holy Spirit. It is through this love of Christ we will be able to lead the poor to the gospel. Not judging them for their state is exactly what we how we should respond but bringing them a message of hope is our calling in Christ.

So, my advice is, give money if you feel the Holy Spirit telling you. Give your time if the Holy Spirit is telling you. But don't feel condemnation for not giving either so long as you are open and listening to the Holy Spirit.

Finally, with regard to giving money. Proverbs 19:7 "One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, And He will repay him for his good deed." - it sounds crazy, but if I were going to have someone in debt to me, I would want it to be God! :)

Fezzik77 said...

It has been my philosophy for a while that you have to take the story at face value. If they are in need and I can help I should. I don't always but sometimes I do. Sometimes it bothers me that the reason I don't give them the money in my wallet is because I have it purposed for something.....usually something I can just use my debit card to buy. I usually end up feeling like a schmuck for not helping.

Here's my thinking, it doesn't matter what they are going to use it to buy. I have had the opportunity to interact with Homeless people and people with homes but no jobs that have to beg. They often have interesting stories sometimes they are where they are because they were stupid. I trust they will continue to be stupid. Generally if I met them they were trying, enrolled in a program to help them in some way or another. If I am looking to give I usually look to organizations (which also do dumb stuff with money sometimes). Back to what I was saying they might use it to continue to be stupid, they may laugh when they leave me and feel like they got one over on me. That isn't my problem. All we can do is try to help and know that occasionally we may end up helping some that are abusing it.

We have to be responsible and we have to be practical but if we really look at our lives there is room for generosity in most of our wallets.

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