Do you struggle with how to respond to a beggar when they approach you asking for money? When I worked downtown, there were always homeless people on the street begging for money. Now, I’m often approached in grocery stores by people who are shopping and ask for money to buy food. Years ago, I used to respond by giving them whatever change I may have had in my pocket. In some cases, I would go as far as buying them a sandwich because I knew how my money was being spent.
Social service agencies discourage people from giving money directly to beggars. There are governmental services and support available for the homeless that go unclaimed because the homeless prefer to panhandle on the streets. I’m hesitant now giving them money in fear of enabling them to feed an unhealthy habit. I also don’t want to be hustled by professional scammers who pose as the homeless and beg on the streets. Yet, you don’t want to see anyone in need go without. It’s a tough dilemma. I decided to seek wisdom from the Bible about giving money to the poor.
The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom regarding the poor. The message is clear throughout Proverbs that God made both the rich and the poor. (Proverbs 22:2) Although the poor are often despised, neglected and exploited, God desires that the poor be treated with the same concern and care as the rich. God has charged His children with taking care of and protecting the poor from those who would exploit them. (Proverbs 29:7)
I could not find anywhere in the Bible where the responsibility of caring for the poor was on the shoulders of the government. It’s not a bad thing that government funded social services are available to the poor. However, outside of the tax payers’ contribution, God does imply that the righteous are still accountable for the care of the poor. Failure to do so has consequences. “Whoever shuts their eyes to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.” Proverbs 21:13.
One of my former Sunday school teachers said that she gave money to anyone who approached her. She kept change in her pocket for that reason. She did not believe it was her job to judge how the money was used. She felt that she was following what God wants us to do and that God would honor her intentions, regardless of how the money was used. After researching Proverbs, I believe she was on to something.
“Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.” Proverbs 28:27
Lord, please open my heart to be sensitive to the poor and to generously provide for their spiritual, emotional and financial needs. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Please join us for Thursday’s live blog chat at 8:00 p.m. EST. Please call 1-712-770-8009; Code: 335261. Share your thoughts regarding this post.