This is a tough subject this week, as you can probably imagine there are wildly different views even within the Christian community. As I said a couple of weeks ago, money is a huge stronghold in our society and so it is not surprising it can be such a contentious issue. I will shortly be giving my opinion on how I respond, but first let’s examine the passage.
Jesus is speaking about a request for either a gift (“the one who begs”) or a loan (“the one who borrows”). Whether we expect to get our money back or whether we have no hope of being repaid we are to give to those who ask. As we have seen with the three previous instructions in this little section, Jesus is not necessarily speaking to us absolutely literally so that we give all of our money away, he is talking about our attitudes. We are to mimic the generosity of our father in heaven, we are to hold our possessions and money lightly. We are to see things in light of the kingdom of God with our gaze firmly towards eternity. This sort of attitude reflects whose children we are. We have experienced the grace, mercy and kindness of such a generous God, who gave His only son to die a horrible death in our place. How could we be mean and miserly when we have received such generosity?
Most likely, your attitude before you were saved was the same as everyone else. We had a sense of entitlement. I earned the money I have, I worked hard for it, it belongs to me. But when we discover more of God we realise that he is the one who provides everything for us. He provides the jobs we work and gives us the health, abilities and skills to carry them out. He puts the food on our table and the money in our wallet and he graciously allows us to keep some of it. That is why we can trust Him in every circumstance. The Apostle Paul recognised this when he said;
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12-13)
When we meet a beggar on the street, this knowledge of God’s provision should be foremost in our minds. The question to ourselves should be, not how much of my money can I afford to give, but Father how can I bless this child of yours and reflect your generosity?
Christians have differed over the years regarding how literally we are to take Jesus’ words. Some have said that we should always give money to someone who asks us for it, no matter what the circumstances and without any judgement as to whether the person has a genuine need or not, whereas others have said, that would be totally irresponsible and wrong because we could be fuelling a drink or drug habit. They say that such an action would actually be immoral!
So what should we do?
It is a tricky one and I can certainly understand both sides. The important thing is that we do something, I have struggled with this conundrum for some time and the important thing is that we ask God what He wants us to do in any situation. We need to be continually led by the Holy Spirit.
For me and my wife, we prefer to offer to buy the person food. We ask them if they are hungry and go to a local store and buy a sandwich some crisps and a drink. If the person is receptive we will offer to pray for them. I gave somebody money last week but that is rare. On that occasion, God wouldn’t let me walk past without doing so.
The important thing is that we allow God to touch our hearts with the need to help the poor and destitute. We can so easily brush it off and ignore it. God’s heart for the poor and needy is very clear in scripture, but for some reason this need has been largely ignored in Christianity.
If you don’t feel comfortable giving to an individual, then at least give to one of the many homeless charities or a ministry that works with the poor. We can’t keep walking on the other side of the road like the two ‘religious’ people in the parable of the good Samaritan. It’s time to engage, to do something.
If you know of any ministries or charities that do a particularly good work amongst the poor and homeless, please share in the comments below. As this blog has readers from all over the world, if you do recommend anyone, please just say what country you are from.