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Monday, February 25, 2008

The Least Of These

So there's a homeless guy that you see around town pretty often. One day, he approaches you on the street, asking for money. You compassionately give him a couple bucks.

You know, the "least of these" and all that.

The very next day, you see that same homeless guy sitting on a park bench, obviously drunk, with a beer in one hand, and a cigarette in the other. He's still begging, but since he's intoxicated, he's pretty aggressive about it. Do you ever give him more money?

Surely someone would claim "stewardship," saying that it wouldn't be very responsible of us to continue "wasting" money on someone who obviously doesn't use it wisely.

Do the actions of others ever release us from our responsibilities as Christ-followers? Did the homeless guy deserve our help this first time, but not the next? Can accountability exist outside of a personal relationship? What is our motivation for generosity?

I believe that missional living requires that we demonstrate what it might be like to live in a right relationship with the world around us. The proper way to relate to sin it to confess it, repent from it, and run from it. The right relationship with all people is love.

What is the right relationship to a stranger in need?

Today I gave 20 euros (which, considering the current exchange rate, is something like $600 US dollars) to a homeless man who "lives" around our neighborhood. He was drunk, and had a cigarette in one hand. Giving felt like the right thing for me to do, but it really bothered me that the man didn't seem to appreciate it.


Jason said...

Yeah, growing up in South America I have struggled with this all my life. But, when you really think about it, how much help is it to hand out money every once in a while? That is really an easy way to appease our sense of duty. If we really want to help it takes a little more effort. Truly helping the least of these takes a lot more time and investment than most of us (myself included) are usually willing to expend. And in the end, it is frustrating when we make the effort and a person rejects our real help. "I just want your cash, Mister." Why does it have to be so hard?

Watchman said...

I recently gave a guy twenty bucks so he could buy a "part for his car" I knew better, but still gave him the cash. I see his mug in the news this week, saying he got arrested for forging a check. I probably still would have helped him out.

I'll never forget what a former homeless guy told me one day as I was serving alongside him in a soup kitchen. I asked him how he felt, knowing that many of these people in line were drug addicts and prostitues or just plain lazy bums. His reply was "Jesus told me to feed the poor, not try and figure out who is cheating me." That changed my perspective.


stepchild said...

I totally agree that people need more than a handout. I really mean it when I write that we need to build redeeming relationships with people.

That said, I'm pretty sure it's a good thing when we give anything- even just a one-time handout. I'm afraid that we paralyze ourselves from doing even that because we realize that a greater investment would be better.

That's exactly what I mean. How cool that you heard it from someone who was in those shoes.

I think God is pleased when we give to people in need, no matter how the recipients manage what's given.