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Sunday, June 05, 2011

Should We Give Money to Beggars?

I've had various replies to this question. Some people say we should never give money to beggars because most of them use it to buy drugs or alcohol. Others say we should buy the food instead and give it to them, still others say we should simply give the money and not worry about how they use it. I tend to straddle the fence on this one. Sometimes I give to the person depending on how he/she looks. If I think the person looks really hungry or needy, I give. People in wheelchairs and bearing a sign that says "Veteran" get me everytime.

But I have often asked myself what is the right thing to do, even though deep down inside I know the answer. Jesus taught, "Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you" (Matthew 5 : 24). And again, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25: 45). Beggars are seen as the least among members of society. How easy it is to fulfill one of Jesus' commands by giving to these people who are so destitute they have to beg in order to eat. Yes, 2 Thessalonians 3 : 10 does say, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat," but like everything else in the Bible, this verse has to be taken in context. Paul was referring to the fact that he and the others who were preaching the gospel with him did so free of charge, and worked in order to provide for themselves so they could not be accused of preaching for monetary gain. The phrase "will not work" in the Greek is translated to mean "not willing to work", therefore some of the beggars we see on the street may be willing to work, but are unable to do so because of the state of the economy or because of ill health.

Yesterday while driving, I saw a woman walking in traffic, holding up a cardboard sign. I was only able to make out the words "Please help" before the light changed and the cars began to move. As the woman turned to cross the street, I noticed she was pregnant. Oh my goodness, I thought. I don't recall ever seeing a pregnant woman begging before. For the rest of the evening my mind kept going back to the woman. How had she gotten herself in that position? What could I have done to help? Maybe if I was in the habit of giving to every beggar I would have reached for my purse as soon as I saw her. Maybe I should have turned around and tried to find her. Maybe she would be going to bed hungry tonight. Maybe I'll see her again and be able to make up for what I shoud have done. Guilt riddled my thoughts.

We need to heed God's word nd apply it to every situation. Jesus gave us the golden rule: "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7:12). Just put yourself in the place of a beggar for one day. Years ago, some of Oprah's staff posed as beggars for one day and it was a humbling experience. So, should we give to beggars? The answer is in God's word. If you know someone is begging and unwilling to work, follow 2 Thessalonians 3, but if you don't know, and you are in a position to give, then by all means do so.
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