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November 11, 2005

brother, kin ya spare a dime?

proverb 28.27 "he who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses."

i have been criticized for giving money to obvious drunkards begging for spare change and i've even been called "plain stupid" for giving money to strangers on the street, but i've never really agreed with putting stipulations on giving to the poor. it's my understanding that we're called to give to those in need, not to micromanage where our alms are going to end up. of course, this smacks of cloying piety so let me stress that this is not my aim; it's just that after reading the end of mr. luse's brief update and the comments about cons, drunks, and giving that it brings to mind the fact that i've never given money to someone who asked without being blessed. i know it sounds crazy, but it's the truth and, at the risk of sounding like a total religious flake, i've even been nudged by the Spirit to give to those who didn't ask me personally, only to be later blessed.

granted, i've never actually worked per se with people who are on the breadline. i spent exactly four hours working in a homeless shelter one Christmas ten years ago. so you could say that i'm a "giver" as opposed to being a "doer" -- which may explain a lot to those who've actually served the poor.

that said, i still think turning away someone in need, even if that need be for alcohol or just a pack of smokes, is akin to putting the old kibosh on a potential blessing.

Posted by smockmomma at November 11, 2005 8:42 AM


Someone I know carries a few "power bars" in her handbag, to give to people who are begging in the streets.
By the way, you don't sound like a flake....

Posted by: Barb Szyszkiewicz, sfo at November 12, 2005 5:49 AM

I agree.

Since I wrote that I have read Under the Overpass about two young men who took Jesus at his word and lived among the homeless, AS homeless, for six months around the country. They basically confirmed my policy of giving granola bars and water ... however, if I'm out of them and have cash? I give the cash. For the reasons in the post I linked to.

Good on you for keeping on giving.

Posted by: Julie D. at November 12, 2005 8:23 AM

my wife and i live in near poverty in order to serve the poor. she is a social worker and i am involved in Catholic social justice.

I think our desire to give to the poor is a very good thing. we want to see people fed and clothed, we want to be Christ, and that is wonderful.

but, we know panhandlers very well, my wife and I. We know panhandlers who make as much money as we do. We know too many people with mental illness, too many people who turn $5 into crack cocaine, who KNOW that they shouldn't have money, to justify giving money to panhandlers.

Jesus wants us to give to help our neighbor get to heaven. Feeding addiction- be it cigarettes or, far more often, crack, helps no one get to heaven. We need to take responsibility for our brothers in Christ, and unfortunately, giving money to panhandlers hurts far more than it helps

Posted by: concerned at November 13, 2005 1:02 AM

i don't really know how to tell panhandlers from those with earnest need, so for now i'll keep giving to those who ask.

Posted by: smockmomma at November 13, 2005 8:27 PM

Thank you for having this discussion. It is a good reminder. I, too, feel that we should not judge what people do with the money given to them, but lately I must admit I am torn as I have heard of scams, that some of these people get into SUVs at the end of the day (driven by someone running the scam). Here in Denver there are many people on corners with a cardboard sign asking for help. Sometimes I give and sometimes not.

When we lived in Spokane, WA a few years ago, the city asked us not to give directly to the people, but to refer them to food kitchens, shelters. There were many young people under the age of 20, sitting on the sidewalks panhandling.

Giving a dollar or two is not hard for me, but handing out say a snack bar might make me worry about being rejected, but I guess that would be the persecution part I should offer up.

I read about one lady who went to McDonald's every day and bought several lunches to hand out to people.

Posted by: Peg at November 13, 2005 9:21 PM

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