This year has left many people in need. And, as I sit at a traffic light in my city, I notice more people begging for help on the corner. They hold signs asking for help. Some say things like, “Unemployed, need food” or “Wife sick, need help” I am sure all of us encounter such scenes around our cities and towns. But, begging for help is getting more commonplace, especially with the effects of COVID on our society. What do you do when you see someone asking for help?
Someone called into a Christian radio station this morning to say they had recently given money to a person begging. Now they feel guilty because they were not sure if that was that the right thing to do. Also, the caller worried about what the man would do with the money she gave him. Do we judge those begging as undeserving of our help?
Many people I talked with over the years have strong opinions on this subject. Some of the arguments include that they will probably just buy drugs or alcohol with the money I give them. Or another one is that they are capable of working, and they are just being lazy. But, are these arguments just excuses to get us off the hook of helping others? As Christians, what is our responsibility towards those we see begging in the streets of our cities?
Let’s turn to the authority on this topic, our Bible. Many verses in the Bible talk about poverty and about helping others. The one that I think address this question most directly is found in the gospel of Matthew:
“Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”Matthew 5:42
I don’t think it gets much more direct than that verse. But most of us are still concerned about the motives of those begging for help. When we do not give because of our perception of how the person will use the money, we become judge and jury. We think we know their motives, and we do not want to contribute to their bad choices in life. So we do not give.
But, it is only Jesus that knows the true motives of the heart. I believe there are times when the Lord presses it upon my heart to give to a particular homeless person, and that is when I give. I think the Lord’s prompting needs to be our driving force in giving to those begging for help.
God knows the heart and motives of those begging, and I have to rely on Him to direct me. I also can give items instead of money. For example, in the hot weather, I carry unopened water bottles in my car to hand out. Another example includes making up bags of toiletries to hand out. I believe I am called to help those the Lord shows to me and not judge them. And, if I don’t give when the Lord directs me, then I will be held accountable someday for my actions. When we do donate to someone, we should give with a joyful heart and not grumble, as shown in the Bible verse below:
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”2 Corinthians 9:7
Several other Bible verses show us what we might be missing out on if we do not help those that the Lord directs us to help. In Hebrews, we find that sometimes that beggar may not be whom they seem to be:
“Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”Hebrews 13:2
That person begging for help might be an angel in disguise. And, if the Lord directs me to help someone and I do not, then someday when I get to heaven, I might hear the Lord speak these words found in Matthew to me directly:
“42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. 45 He will reply, Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”Matthew 25:42-45
I understand that not everyone begging for help is in actual need of help. Not every one begging for help is homeless or helpless. But, as Christians, our responsibility is to rely on God. So, if God directs you to give to someone standing on a street corner, you should give and not think about it again. Let God be their judge. In this year of COVID, let’s be extra generous this Christmas season.
God, thank you for the abundance of life, relationships, health, comfort, and wealth you have provided, and thank you that even in times of need, despair, and brokenness, you are there. Please, put your arms around children and families in extreme poverty, so they feel comfort and hope; meet their needs both physically and spiritually. And, Lord, guide me so I can be your hands and feet pursuing justice for the poor and upholding the cause of the needy. Amen
Yvonne M. Morgan is an author, blogger, and speaker.
Matthew 28:19 “Therefore, GO and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
Click here to purchase my books: