Giving to those less fortunate seems almost “trendy” these days. In the age of social media, we’re not hard pressed to find a feel-good story with thousands of shares or a crowd-sourcing site set up for someone who’s found themselves caught up in less than ideal circumstances. I don’t think there’s a single thing wrong with any of these things and I doubt that God would find a reason to frown upon them either.
There was a viral story recently about a boy who asked a gentleman if he could help him carry his groceries in exchange for some donuts; and humanity came through for this boy and his disabled mother in a BIG way. There are also great stories floating around about paying the tolls for the car behind you at the toll-booth, or paying for the coffee of the driver behind you at the drive-thru, and even buying lunch for law officers to say thank you (which I highly recommend). Even Pinterest has countless ideas for “blessing bags” for the homeless. There are even free printable cards available to add to the bags.
All of these are wonderful ways to give and be blessed in the giving, and I have no doubt that each of these instances gives just a little bit of hope, or at least a little pick-me-up, to the recipients of these acts of kindness.
BUT …. Are you giving obediently? Are Blessing Bags what God told you to do?
Blessing bags are a great idea, and I’m sure that the recipients of those bags are grateful, but what good is two or three blessing bags (full of shampoo, shaving cream, and dental hygiene items) to a person who has no access to running water? God knows what the poor have need of, way better than we know, so if He tells us to give money then that’s what we should give.
Have you ever pulled up to a stop light and the Lord put it on your heart to give some money to the homeless person standing there? We’ve all been there. While you’re sitting there though, there’s another little voice that immediately comes up on the inside of you. We generally name it “the voice of reason” because to call it what it really is would be uncomfortable. We have an enemy, and he prowls around this world seeking whom he can destroy and he will use any and all means available to him to do so. This includes talking people out of being a blessing. The “voice of reason” says, “Well, I would, but all I have in my wallet is a $20 bill” or “Ugh, if I do that, I won’t have any cash for lunch later.” Do you think God doesn’t know what’s in your wallet or that you’ll need to eat later? He does. This is where faith comes in. Do we trust Him? To hand someone a bag of toiletries and a box of raisins is not being obedient when the Lord specifically told you to give money.
By and large though, the most popular argument I hear against giving money to the homeless, whether they’re panhandling on the street corner or asking for money in the grocery store parking lot, is “I’m not giving them CASH! They might use it to sin!” Well … you’re absolutely right. They just might! They could go buy alcohol or cigarettes with it. Who knows, maybe they’ll even buy lottery tickets or take it down to the horse track and bet on the ponies – but maybe they won’t. What if they use it to buy a loaf of bread and a pack of bologna to share with the other 4 homeless people who live in the storm drain with him? My question to you is, why does what the money is spent on concern you? When God asks us to give money to someone, it is most certainly in order to fulfill His purpose in their life, and yours. What the recipient does with that money once we hand it off is 100% between him and God. If God has given you direction to give away the last $20 in your wallet, that money is no longer yours – I mean, it’s not; that is, if you mean what you say when you sing, “I Surrender All” in church on Sunday. Once you hand it off, you have done your part by being obedient to the Lord, now you have to trust Him that He knows what He’s doing.
That homeless person may have a mother out there who hasn’t seen or heard from her son or daughter in a decade; who is on her knees praying for her child right that moment. Maybe he lost his job and home and spent every penny he had on cancer treatments for his wife or child. Or, he or she could be in the situation they are in completely by their own bad choices, having turned to drugs or alcohol to dull the pain of whatever circumstance life had them in at the time; but the hopelessness only got worse (as it always does when drugs and alcohol are involved) and now they are feeling suicidal and decided in a last-ditch effort to pray before going out in search of someone to care. We don’t know anything about that person.
If he were a child with no money to buy food in the lunch line at school, would we be so reluctant to give? How about if she was an animal rescue desperate for money to feed the animals they host? What if it was a school supply drive for underprivileged kids in a third world country? We are generally much more open to giving in these situations.
Why are our hearts so hard against our fellow man?
These people are human beings – they are men and women who have been through more than most of us could ever imagine, yet we pat ourselves on the back and feel really good about giving them a fruit cup and a stick of deodorant. If God directed you to give a blessing bag, great, by all means do so! However, if He directed you to give money, it is disobedience to give anything else instead. It is defiance of the Lord’s direction in our lives; and sadly, we are not winning any souls for Christ by not being mindful of the needs of the recipient. Giving wasn’t created to make us feel good about ourselves (although that’s a lovely side effect), it was created by God to supply the needs of His people. If we are His hands and feet, what kind of message does it send to the world when we’re more worried about what someone would spend “our” money on, than we are concerned for their spiritual health and faith in God? In Matthew 25:42-43, Jesus is speaking about the judgement of the nations and he says, “for I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.” In verse 45, He goes on to say, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.”
Jesus was homeless for most of his adult life. He traveled from town to town, country to country preaching and teaching and working miracles but he had no home. He relied on the obedience and faith of others for his every need. The Bible reads in Luke 8:1-3: “1Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, 2 and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, 3 and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.” Would you feel differently about handing cash out your car window if it were Jesus standing there? Looking back to Matthew 25:45; it is, in fact, Jesus standing there.
Please understand that I am not only writing to you in this post, but also to myself. As I said earlier, we have all been there. How would I know about that little “voice of reason” if I hadn’t ever heard it? We are teaching our children to give, but are we teaching them to give in judgement of their fellow man? How so, you ask? Has your pre-schooler ever wanted to give a homeless person a dollar and instead of doing it, you shushed them and rushed them along to wherever you were going? Have you planned out a Saturday family project to make up 20 blessing bags and told your kids that these bags are better to give because the bags keep the homeless people from spending their money on things “they don’t need”?
These preconceived ideas are common-place in our society, unfortunately, and it’s because we as a church have spent too many generations diluting the unchanging Word of God with the traditions of men and the doctrines of our individual denominations. Wouldn’t it be great if we could stop being Catholics and Baptists, Lutherans and Episcopalians, Pentecostals, Church of Christ, Methodists and Protestants and just be Christians? Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we all pulled together to BE the light in this world as Jesus has called us to be?
In Philippians 2:1-4, Paul admonishes the church, “1Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” If you have found any consolation in Christ’s love for you, does your brother or sister not deserve that same love? Jesus himself said, in the 22nd chapter of Matthew that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord God with all your heart, and the second is like the first that we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Are we putting ourselves in the shoes of the homeless when we refuse to give them cash money? Most corner stores are unwilling to barter a mini-tube of toothpaste and a travel size shampoo for a sandwich and a water. Are we esteeming ourselves higher than him?
The whole point of this article, from start to finish, is just to get you (and me) to consider our actions. Are we doing what God asks us to do, or are we doing something a little bit like what he asked us to do because it’s less uncomfortable for us? I don’t know about you, but God rarely asks me to do anything that I’m perfectly comfortable with. Staying within our comfort zones doesn’t require any faith at all. The bible tells us that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-16 ~ “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”) It would then stand to reason, that works, without faith would also be dead.
Ultimately, I’d love for this article to open a conversation so we can encourage each other toward instant obedience to God’s call – even when it feels “prickly.” After all, don’t we teach our children that slow obedience is no obedience? I would think that God would feel the same way. Do you have a testimony to share about a time when God called you outside of your comfort zone then showed up and showed out in a big way? If so, please share it in the comments or you can email me here and I will share it anonymously.
Thanks for reading, and have a blessed and prosperous week.
This post is being shared at My Faith Tree. If you’re seeking encouragement and Christian sisters, you should go check it out.