2008-07-16 - Summer Question
2008 #5 ~ How Best to Help
Daniel 4:27 Break away now from your sins by doing righteousness, and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.
Today's Question: As a Christian, how should I respond when approached by someone asking for money or food? This happens fairly often where I live. I know the Bible says we should help those in need, and share what we have and take care of the poor, etc. When I am approached by someone, I politely say that I can't help them. This isn't literally true. I could spare a dollar or some change now and then, I'm sure. I just worry that money will be spent on alcohol or drugs or that the person really doesn't need it. I know it is up to God to know other people's motives, but I'm just not sure about the wisdom of handing out cash money. As a single female, I worry about my safety and want to get out of the situation as quickly as possible. I usually say a prayer for the person afterwards but sometimes feel guilty about not giving. I suppose I could donate to a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen, but this doesn't resolve the issue in my mind of whom I should help and when as far as those individuals who ask me. As Christians, what should our response be to such situations?
I have reproduced your question word for word, and I think it is a good one for many of us. Servants of Christ should be giving people. God loves a cheerful giver, (2 Corinthians 9:7). We have been given much. But we are also called upon to be stewards of what we are given. We are stewards of the mysteries of God (1 Corinthians 4:1), and stewards of the grace of God (1 Peter 4:10). But there is something more than simply guarding the precious truths of God's as found in His Word. We are stewards of everything God has given us, Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, James 1:17.
So I commend you not giving money to people who ask you on the street. I do not encourage people to do so, nor do I do so myself. Sometimes I will offer to take someone, who asks me for money, to a place to get something to eat. I do not hand out money. I have little doubt that cash given out generally goes to alcohol or drugs. I do believe in helping those who are in need, and the closer the relation, the greater the obligation. However, handing out cash to those we do not know seems unwise stewardship of the things God has given us.
You could, of course, donate to a homeless shelter or soup kitchen as you mention, but may I suggest the local church. As a pastor, I sometimes come upon needs that I can't fulfill, genuine needs, like food for a family, or keeping the electric turned on. My hands are tied, due to lack of funds. I would qualify the above, however. Not every ministry is worth giving to. Evangelicals (especially American Evangelicals) are suckers for a cause that sounds good. The cause may do temporary good in some manner, but it must be done in Christ, and with a view to the regeneration of the soul of the sinner. I fear a ministry that does not seek to bring the Gospel of grace to sinners is sadly only a little different than the government welfare checks that many get each month.
This may seem hard, but the Christian, in serving Christ, is to do so in His name - and with a view to His glory. Christ is never more glorified than in the regeneration of a sinner. When a sinner is given a new heart, and transferred from darkness to light, then is Christ most glorified. We need to be good stewards in the ministries or causes we support. If we seek to make a real and lasting impact on their lives, we must - when meeting temporal needs - seek also to meet eternal needs.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Editor's Note: The questions in this series are stated in the exact form sent by the readers - unedited, unproofed, in order to remain true to the reader's original wording.