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Give, and it will be given unto you

July 1, 2010

On nearly every drive to or from work, my husband and I pass panhandlers on the street corners.  They always carry signs indicating their homelessness and need for food or whatever anyone can give.  They will journey through the stopped traffic and when they pass our car, I will invariably look towards my lap in a mixture of shame and embarrassment.

There is this one girl on this one street corner– she can’t be more than sixteen.  She always looks wiped out and infinitely sad.  I wonder where her parents are and if it was my daughter what would I want strangers to do?  (Actually, I worry about her a lot and pray for her because she looks much too young to be out on her own.)  But, I don’t do anything.  And I am shamed and embarrassed.

Although I give money to charities, I have never given money to an individual person.  It seems common knowledge that you shouldn’t give “those sorts of people” cash because they will just spend it on drugs or alcohol or whatever it is that led them to a life on the street in the first place.  And yet…and yet…  Jesus never said “only give to those poor that are deserving.” or “only give to those that won’t waste your money.”  In fact, he never even mentioned that we should be concerned about where our money was going or what a person would do with it– only that we give.  Time and again he instructs us to give, to give for our own sakes as much as for the sake of the poor.

And so I wonder– how do you give?  Do you tithe?  Make a weekly offering at church?  Support a certain charity?  Do you pass beggars on the street and not look their way, or do you stop?  Do you give your time and prayers, and how?

I feel unconnected from my giving.  Not that I’m doing it only for that feel-good feeling, but I give only what we have in surplus and often reluctantly.  I should do more, I need to do more.  The things and money that we have definitely put distance between God and I, even if we don’t have a lot.  I need to change.


If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.  1 John 3:17-18

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 1, 2010 9:34 am

    I think that in today’s society we can give more than dollars and cents. Maybe pack up a container of leftovers and give them to the girl each day on your way home.

  2. Adriana permalink
    July 1, 2010 8:15 pm

    i faced the same thing every day for the last year when i would drive to class at night. once i passed a certain street there were people on EVERY. SINGLE. CORNER. now that the weather is warm there is double the amount that there used to be. i feel the same way you do. sometimes i stare down at my hands or awkwardly shake my head as i pray the light will change before they reach my car.

    usually, instead of giving them money i give them food. i figure, you know what? i can skip my snack in class today and wait until i get home to eat a late dinner if it means this person gets a bag of chips, a snickers bar, a yogurt, etc. i have given money a few times but that was only when i was asked point blank on the sidewalk without the ability to zoom away in my car. one time, it was NYE and i was running around trying to find something to wear for a party that night and saw a homeless man in the middle of a chicago winter walking down the street barefoot. i actually felt so overwhelmed and so upset that i did the only thing i could think of – i went into a store and bought him a 10pack of socks, went outside and walked 5 blocks until i found him. It was one of the only times ive ever been moved to tears.

    its a hard balance to figure out how to help someone (like in giving food, clothing, money for food) and when to stop being an enabler (money for drugs/alcohol). but then you are right. the bible never said to give only to those who need food, it just says to give to those who need.

    Sigh 😦
    Sigh. 😦

  3. July 4, 2010 10:47 pm

    This is something that I’ve struggled with too. When I was in university I encountered homeless people every day. Many of them were drunk or on drugs and wouldn’t interact with me. But… there was one man who I saw when I went grocery shopping. Every time I waited to board the bus with my groceries he was there asking for money… I would tell him that I had no money to give him but I’d be happy to share my food. At this point he would either walk away or become upset with me calling me a “bad Christian” because he wanted money not food. It came to the point were I stopped shopping there and I started seeing all homeless people the same. It wasn’t very good. A few of my friends suggested carrying around coupons for McDonalds and giving those away and I did do this a few times.

    Nowadays we give a weekly offering at church and when other needs come up (either globally or locally) we give there as well. I agree with you though, we should be judging less and giving more…

  4. Mary permalink
    July 8, 2010 12:12 pm

    I really struggle with this too…and when did giving become so dang complicated? There are so many unspoken rules about giving to individuals vs. charities, tithing vs. impulse giving (something that Alex thinks I’m a little too good at). At my university the sidewalks are full of homeless, always panhandling. As Josee related, these guys can be really aggressive and even lewd sometimes and that really makes my giving desires dry up!

    I also feel uncomfortable giving to large charities because all that bad press about charity corruption. Lately, I just have been starting small: I donate alot of nice stuff to goodwill, I give money to LOCALLY-sponsored church help events, I shop at goodwill because they provide a more independent lifestyle to people with disabilities and that is extremely important with me (my biggest annoyance with society is how carelessly it de-humanizes disabled persons). Its not a terribly personal method of giving, but its a start!

    I think Karen had the best suggestion of what to do with the teenage girl. Providing her with a home-cooked meal regularly sends a message that you think of her and care. Its recognizing that despite living in a very adult situation, she’s still a kid and still needs to get her vitamins and minerals!

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