Apr 23, 2006

buddy, can you spare a dime?

Occasionally I stumble across some Bible teaching that just doesn't seem to mesh (at least in my feeble mind) with what's written in another place. If the teachings seem to conflict (by my interpretation at least) perhaps my understanding is shallow, or it's a mystery that just doesn't lend itself to easy interpretation.

Jesus clearly states in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:42 ESV) we are to give alms to those who ask:
"Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you."
Side note: What would you do if someone you don't even know asked to borrow your new $80,000 Hummer? Remember, were not to refuse the one who would borrow from us.

Paul (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 ESV) presents a case for thoughtful giving. If we give indiscriminately to everyone who begs for help, we aid someone Paul tells us should not eat because they are unwilling to work.

"... If anyone is not willing to work let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living."
On the surface it appears these two passages of scripture place us in an untenable position, and wedges us between a rock and a hard place trying to figure out what to do when someone begs of us. Jesus says give to the one who begs, while Paul says if a man is to lazy to work he shouldn't eat.

When we provide alms to a beggar who is obviously too lazy to work (not referring to those truly in need,) he becomes useless to himself and society, and becomes dependent on handouts without seeing the need to provide for himself. By our alms we encourage laziness, and actually cause him more harm than good.

Jesus says give to the beggar, yet my common sense says don't give to the beggar; not without first checking to see if he's really in need, or just seeking to add my name to his list of suckers who support him. Sucker, or not, I prefer to err on the side of benevolence than to take a chance of rejecting my neighbor who truly needs help. It's not always an easy decision, especially with the overload of those on drugs, booze, and whatever, that are roaming our streets looking for an easy source of income to supply their bad habits.


L.E.Meredith said...

I do believe we should question those who stumble up to us drunk and ask for money to eat with. But my heart usually overides my head and if I can afford to give I do.as I have written Paul differs from Christ in advice often. I believe that difference occures because Christ is talking to your spirit, and Paul is giving advise to the person. When I see a divergence in advice given by Paul and Jesus I have no problen as who to follow God or man.

WeathertopMama said...

A modern plague that causes homelessness, drug abuse, alcoholism, and despair is mental illness.

You can't always tell why the person can't work and is begging or in the street. Perhaps they once had a family and a life, but now are overcome (whether thru their own choices or not). Maybe the love of Jesus shining thru me and my $$, food, or clothes, will be the light they turn to in a lucid moment. Knowing that someone cared, and that someone mentioned Jesus.

So I give. I have received, before, many times while in need. I was thankful as a child for those who didn't ask alot of questions...just saw we were needy and gave with love. (the questions would have been so painful to answer) So that's how I try to give, and what I try to teach my children.

For someone obviously drunk or strung out, a nice thing to do is to give food instead of money. Or if someone would rather not help individuals (it can be scary out there) we can all contribute to missions and organizations that specialize in this sort of thing.

L.E.Meredith said...

Brother Larry If you or any one were to want to borrow my $80,000
hummer to take their kid to a hospital or doctor you are welcome. But you would have to settle for my $4,000 1988 GMC suburban. We will stay conflicted
and confused when we give the same weight to Pauls writings as we do that spoken by Jesus, when we believe every word in the bible is truly the word of God it will never make sence to humans. When we believe ever word of advice spoken by the great adviser Paul was whispered in his ear by the Holy Spirit so he could pass it on to us we will be confused.I will give the best proof I have that every word in Pauls writings was not whispered to him in my next article. Paul himself. God Bless

Larry said...

It's difficult for me to turn down anyone asking for help, even when I suspect his motives are less than honest.

Those who make a dishonest living by being professional panhandlers on the street often spend years honing their begging skills, and many of these types are certainly able to support themselves.

While mental illness can cause drug abuse and alcoholism, it's also the case that these substance abuses can cause mental illness as well.

All of us give to the needy through our churches and government programs, and many of us give to orphan homes and other worthy projects in addition, yet there are the poor who always seem to fall through any support systems and still need our help-often on the streets.

I'm only trying to say that some of these people who have taken up permanent residence on our street corners are begging for the very things they don't need-alcohol and drugs. If we are suckered into buying their drugs and alcohol are we really helping them!

Larry said...

I don't want to borrow your '88 Jimmy, I want to borrow the 2006 hummer your hiding in your garage. I want to borrow the hummer to take a joy ride and to impress my girlfriend, not to take my kids to the doctor. Can I still borrow your hummer (if you actually had one)? :)

In the words of Jesus; "...do not refuse the one who would borrow from you." He doesn't preface this statement with any qualifications, just simply DON'T REFUSE HIM.

It seems that some common sense needs to come into play when we loan stuff to just anyone who asks. For example; you might loan your car to anyone who asks, but what if they don't have a drivers license, or if your insurance isn't valid with another driver of your vehicle, etc.

Even the simple words of Jesus that should be easy to apply, often become a big headache when we try to frame these words to a real life situation.

L.E.Meredith said...

Mt:5:48: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Brother Larry I just re-read Matthew ch 5 Jesus is telling us how to become perfect. If you could do all these things you will become perfect as God is perfect. none not one could stand up to that list. none but Christ Jesus.

Larry said...

I don't see us becoming perfect; just doing the best we can trying to follow in His footsteps.

If we fall short trying to follow His teachings in ignorance it's one thing, but to ignore his Word knowingly is quite another.

When I buy my new Hummer it will be hid in the garage, then I want have to fish for excuses when someone wants to borrow it. :)

iggy said...

Thought provoking!

One thing is that Paul seems to have a different standard for giving for those who are "your enemies" to them give freely what they ask: Rom 12:19. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
20. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."
21. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

With this in mind concerning beggars... think of the beggars Jesus ministered to... the blind, lame, lepers and so on. I am sure many of these drank, yet that was the way they could have been medicating themselves. Do we have these here now? To me if the person is genuinely disabled and destitute I will give. I may also at times as I give remind them that they said it was for food. I mostly will just pay for a meal instead of giving money if I think that it will be wasted.

What I really see is this. 2 Cor tells us: 7. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

So if you find that it is good for you to give to the drunk do not be worried of what they will do or what others think. If you do not find it is good to keep giving money to the drunk then don't.

Really though, if one is truly concerned. Would it be best to find help... to go and find a way to truly help this person... to give the gift of love? To invest in their lives? That is the highest standard, which is the standard we all fall short of, to give out of love, not just money but out of our lives.

Larry said...

Appreciate your comments.

Your right on target concerning our willingness to offer alms, but not much else. We usually offer money but no support.

We offer a few paltry dollars to a beggar, but often have a hard time visualizing the soul peering at us through helpless eyes.