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Your Gospel or Your Money!

In Sunday school, there was a discussion about Matthew 5:42, where Jesus says that you should give to the one who asks you and not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

I posed the following scenario to a number of people:

On that very afternoon, you are walking downtown about a block from a popular fast-food restaurant, where a modest lunch costs about three dollars. A man approaches you politely. He is well dressed, but he looks like he has spent a lot of time on the street. He says he is hungry and asks you if you can spare a dollar. You have plenty of money, but you realize that you only have twenty cents in change and your smallest bill is a five-dollar bill.

What do you do?

The correct answer depends on many factors, including the hardness of your heart, your capacity for compassion, as well as the man’s social skills and appearance. Here is how you voted, with my usual crackpot observations.

No one said, Give the man the twenty cents.
31% of them said, Give the man five dollars.
3% of them said, Don’t give the man anything, because he might be a drunk or a mental patient.
25% of them said, Walk with the man to the fast-food restaurant and buy him lunch.
33% of them said, Walk with the man to the fast-food restaurant and buy lunch for both of you.
No one said, Tell the man to get a job and give him nothing.
8% of them said, Something else not listed here.

Victoria Shepard wrote:

I had a couple quick comments about the poll (Matthew 5:42 this week). I had to check something else not listed here because you left out at least one important choice. When it came to buying the man food, you neglected to give the choice of telling him to wait and you would bring him back something. I tried letting a homeless person come with me into a fast food restaurant. Never again! The guy demanded specific food and what I was prepared to buy was not good enough. I ended up taking the food with me (he said he didn’t want it) and giving it to another homeless person further down the street.
I can’t say I’ve ever been approached by someone asking for food so I don’t know exactly what I would do. As a rule of thumb, I occasionally buy food or give money to homeless people I see. I usually prefer to give food because money can be used for drugs. When I lived in San Francisco I made a point of buying a meal for someone every time payday rolled around. On a cold day I might buy coffee for someone. I do this because I was homeless once and I promised God that when my life got better I would help out these people.

Notice Victoria’s last sentence. If you are unkind to street people, the Holy Spirit may decide you need a practicum and may let you try it out yourself.