“Stranded Vietnam Vet Needs $”

“Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.  And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”  – Luke 6:30,31 ESV

Whenever verses like this come up for discussion among believing friends, someone asks, “So does that mean we are supposed to give to the guy on the side of the road holding up the cardboard sign, the one you KNOW will just use it for drugs?”

My own husband often makes this argument: “America is a land of opportunity.  There are many things other than beg that people can do to see that they get fed/clothed/housed, even if it means taking a minimum wage job.  The people who beg on the streets are usually either addicts or have something seriously mentally wrong.  They won’t use the money you give them wisely.”

So here’s my question: Does God care?  Does He care what happens to the money after we give it, or does it then become that person’s responsibility?  I know He calls us to be wise with what we’re given, good stewards.  So we might discern that giving it away to “everyone who begs from you” in this day and age seems absurd.  Our decision has been to channel our money through organizations to help the needy who we know will use it in a manner that not only gets them food, but often education and always training in the scriptures.

But look at our society.  What used to be taken care of by the church (the orphans and widows, the poor and needy, the infirm of mind) is now the government’s project.  At what point did the church fail?  And what implications does this have for how we do our giving today?

I would LOVE to hear your view on the subject, or your church’s view, or what you think the biblical response to beggars is (even if you don’t regularly see them in your town or city).

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6 thoughts on ““Stranded Vietnam Vet Needs $”

  1. I live near Nashville TN, which seems to have a pretty large homeless population. I tend to feel led to give a few dollars here and there. Not every time I see a panhandler but sometimes if it is really cold or hot or if they have kids… We are almost all one crisis away from being homeless. So many people live paycheck to paycheck and have no one to help them out. Its almost impossible to get government help even the “churches have to be selective now because of the few that will take advantage.
    I am sure that God does care. He sent His only son for ALL of us.
    As far as only giving to organizations that help the needy, that is absurd. How much of the $ that they bring in actually makes it to the needy after paying rent, utilities, salaries…etc. ? If you want to make a difference, find someone who you deem to be in need. Give then freely with no expectations to how the money should be spent. If they need biblical knowledge, open up your bible with them and teach them. Keep extra bibles in the car to give out. If you feel the need to give through an “organization” a really good way to go is to find missionaries to sponsor. They will most assuredly be using the money to travel and spread God’s message. There are children’s homes that need your money, you can even go volunteer at these places.
    Personally when I give money, I understand that they may go buy booze with it, but on the off chance that they need a meal I am glad to provide. Also you have the option to invite them to a meal, which I have done. If they truly are hungry they will accept and you will have a wonderful opportunity to witness to them.
    I think this is a wonderful post and I hope it gets more people thinking!

  2. This one is hard for me because when I was much younger, my stepdad who is a disabled vet, took a cardboard sign out to the street before Christmas. I KNEW he could work. I was outraged. What I didn’t know at the time was how mentally ill he was.

    But to this day, when I see someone with a cardboard sign, I give. I give what I have in my wallet, I give my takeout dinner, I give the love of Christ. I firmly believe God will multiply what I give into something much greater than I could have given on my own. I believe a meal from McDonald’s can store up treasure in heaven. I believe they need it more than I do at the time.

    Maybe not every needy person has sparkling motives, but it doesn’t change the fact that I know God uses US as His agents down here.

    Blessings,
    Carolynn

  3. Wow, tough questions you got going on there Heidi!

    I have felt led to give at times and at other times I haven’t. I remember one time when my husband was in the check out line at a local deli and he handed the cashier $20.00 telling him that “The Lord told me to give this to you. I don’t know why, but the Lord knows why…and I always do what the Lord tells me to do.” I’ve done the same with some friends or acquaintances I’ve met through church – $50, $200, $300… I suppose it depends on what you believe the Lord is telling you to do.

    My folks are both yellow-dog democrats and in essence have a mind-set that the government should be standing by to help in crises, etc. No doubt, I think that is partially true, but we (Randy and I) believe that the churches role should function as a source of help (monetarily, service, etc.) in time of need/crises as well. My mother and father live in a town that was flooded – literally FLOODED – by Ike in the Fall. Only 14 homes did not get water in them in the ENTIRE town. Recently in one of our conversations she said, “You know where all of the help has come from for the IKE hurricane relief efforts? The church…not the government!” And before I could say, “Well, yeah… that’s where is should come from!” She stopped me and said, “I know we don’t agree on this matter, so get even get started with me!”

    But you see… she was happy the church stepped in to give and help, but still wanted the government to do it’s part. It’s a mixed bag sometimes.

    We tithe and give to the church and pray that our money is used diligently and wisely.

    All in all, the Lord knows our hearts and when we give cheerfully, no matter the circumstances, we will be rewarded in heaven.

  4. Amen, sister. My husband and I talk a lot about this. We’re all for simplicity (less sound equipment and snazzy VBS materials, lavish womens conferences, etc. at church) in order to send more money out. But we had this discussion before we started attending a bells-and-whistles church and are trying to make the best of it. Thankfully, they are also very missions minded. But I mean we really. don’t. need. all. that. stuff.

    As for Scruffy Joe standing on the ‘burb – cash? No. I have, however, handed through my window a granola bar with a gospel tract on several occasions. A friend of mine who lives in the heart of North Minneapolis keeps a stash of peanuts to give out.

    I once even sacrificed my untouched, cream-cheese loaded Bruegger’s baggle to someone knocking on my window! (Oh I miss those things!)

  5. Just doing some catching up here and wanted to comment on this post because it’s something I think about a whole lot.

    It makes sense to me to be careful with money, to be a good steward. I just think this is very tricky. I was a social worker for about eight years and I had a lot of homeless clients. Some of them totally could have worked, but their habits, lifestyle, or illness kept them from believing that. Others really had no control over the situation they found themselves in and honestly could not work. I’ve come face to face with the reality that it is SO case by case.

    So when I’m at the red light and I see the man/woman behind the sign, it’s VERY hard for me to judge. Sometimes I look up and I just KNOW I should give what I have in the car.

    If I’m not sure either way, I lean more toward the benefit of the doubt. This is something I want my kids to see. I don’t want to be careless and well…stupid. But in the end, what I want my boys to know is that I believe in other people. That I seek mercy more than I seek judgment or doubt. That I set aside my arrogant ideas of what I think I know, and love people right where they are. After all, they are children of God, JUST AS I AM, even with all my sin.

    That person on the corner. Yeah, they may have some lifestyle issues, they may drink too much or do drugs. But I have to be really careful about what I think about that. Because the thoughts and attitudes of MY heart…well, they aren’t always too pretty. I’ve got a lot of pride there. And I think that pride can possibly cost me even more than any lifestyle sin.

    Okay then. I’ve just rambled on and on and probably not made the sense I hoped to. In the end, I don’t know for sure if my stance on this is “right.” It’s like many things in life. I will seek the heart of God. Until He tells me I’m being ridiculous, I’ll continue to hope my actions are showing a ridiculous kind of unconditional love, the kind of unfair love that I’ve been shown.

  6. Homelessness may be a problem up here, but we never see it – it’s so cold right now, nobody would survive a night outside anyway. I used to be involved in inner-city ministry in Winnipeg and experience tells me that what your husband said is very often the case.
    Walking in downtown Halifax one time, with no spare cash, a friend of mine encountered a homeless man asking for money. She didn’t have any but had a coupon for a free sandwich at Subway. She offered that to him and his surly response was: “If I wanted a $%^&* sandwich, I would’ve %$^&* asked for one.” Ungrateful people like that sure make everybody else look bad.
    There was just a really good article about this on World Magazine. I’ll see if I can find you a link. Let me know if this doesn’t work. http://www.worldmag.com/articles/14827

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