Falling Awake

Just Darts Since 2009

How should Christians treat beggars?

Since Sunday night, I’ve read over 900 headlines in my news feeder.  I’ve skimmed over 300 articles, and read over 150 all the way through.  I’ve been catching up.  If you’re interested in what I’ve been reading, check my blogroll.  Of all the stories I’ve read, what am I most worried about?

My soul.

Selfish, huh?

I walk through the streets of a decent-sized city every day.  Almost every day, beggars ask me for money.  I don’t call them homeless, because that implies that they’re exactly the same as you or me, except that they’re on the street.  They come in two categories: people who should never have been released from institutions, and people who can’t get up the gumption to work for a living.  The question is, how do you know one from another?

Actually, the relevant question is: does it matter?

I have three beggars I regularly give money to.  There’s Chris, George, and John.  They get two bucks every time they ask.  Sometimes, I get a very creative sob story from a strange beggar.  He gets more.  Until I see him again.

My question is not: “Is this right?”  It’s: “Is this enough?”

A little background:

Six or seven years ago, I knew a guy named Al.  He lived under a bridge.  He was the only guy I ever met in a bar who could discuss Greek playwrights.  I gave him a lot of money.  I thought if I did, that this valuable human being might be able to turn his life around.  One of my favorite people in the world told me I was an idiot to give him money.  I wasn’t an idiot.  I was just hopeful.

Then one night he asked me if he could come and take a shower at my house.  I said no.

Yes, I’m a very charitable man.

I haven’t seen Al in five years.  He may have died in a gutter.  Did the money help him?  I’m sure it did.  Would kindness have helped him more?  I think so.

For the next two years, I gave nothing to any beggars I saw.  Money hadn’t helped Al, after all.  “Sorry,” I’d say.  Other people would help them.  I make next to nothing at my job, right?  I can’t justify spending money on basic cable or high-speed internet access, and I’m going to give these bums money?

Except…   Jesus says to do it.

 I can’t get past that.  Wherever the poor are mentioned in the Gospel, Jesus says to give to them.  No conditions, no excuses.  And he doesn’t have the decency to put a limit on it!  Typical.

Three years ago I found a baby pigeon lying in the middle of a busy street.  I took it home and nursed it to health and watched it fly away.  Unusal, huh?  A year later, I found another baby pigeon outside my own front door.  I took it in, and nursed it to health, and watched it fly away.  Unusual.

If you believe in God, as I do, you have to ask yourself: “Why have I never heard of another person finding even one baby pigeon?”

Here’s why:

The same person who told me not to give any more money to Al was aghast that I had taken in two pigeons.  “They’re flying rats!” he said.  And I want to make it clear that this person is a friend of mine.  I’m not criticizing him.  God used him to complete the analogy.

If I could be so compassionate towards pigeons, why couldn’t I help human beings who were literally lying in the gutter?

I walk past human beings every day who are completely destitute.  And I can’t change that.  Every dime I have, divided among them, wouldn’t change that.  Every dime I have, given to any one of them, wouldn’t change that.

So what do I do?

I don’t know.  I’m going to look at it as an opportunity to tithe.  They get 10% of what I’ve got on me ($2 out of $20, usually).  That’s the minimum.

A couple of months ago, a beggar I didn’t know asked me for money, and I didn’t think I had any on me.  I said, “I don’t think I have anything,” as I opened my wallet.  For show.  I was pissed when I saw five dollars there.  I gave it to him, and walked away angry.  An hour later I found a $20 bill on the ground.

That will never happen again.  I’m not saying that if you give money you’ll get back even more.  I am saying that I think it was a sign–just to me, because I’m always worried about money.

God talks to you all the time: sometimes with pigeons, and sometimes with cash.

You might be wondering why I said I was worried about my soul.  Tonight I had a few dollars on me that I had plans for.  As I was walking, I avoided the route that would take me past the beggars.  I doubt they were even out there but if they were, I can only ask myself one question:

How cold is it tonight?

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11 responses to “How should Christians treat beggars?

  1. Heather February 7, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    I know God talks to me every day. I know this because he is very persistent, sending me the same clear message, through any number of channels, at exactly the right time. Some days it’s like being hit up side the head with a two by four. Sometimes, I think he’s yelling. Like today. Today, no pigeons, or cash. Today, I heard him the loudest through my brother, again. Thanks, I needed that.

  2. Alex Chia February 7, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    Thanks Uncle Mike. That story gave me a lesson, and a few smiles.

  3. sandy February 10, 2007 at 8:02 am

    I recently attended a half day seminar on the social teachings of Jesus Christ. I learned in that half day what it took you a blog entry to convey. Thank you for your courage and willingness to share your insight and enlighten the rest of us. You are truly amazing!

  4. Marguerite February 12, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    Hi Mike! I’ve often struggled with whether to give to pan-handlers or not. You wonder if they’ll just spend it on their drug of choice. However, if I walk past and don’t give, I always feel guilty. I’ve come to the conclusion that, if I have it, I should give it. Whatever happens next is not up to me. Your story is a blessing to me on several levels. It’s lovely to be reminded what a sweet guy you are. Thanks Michael!

  5. lorna February 12, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    Michael,

    Thank you for your wonderful insite. Your father forwarded the blog address to me, both your parents are very proud of you, and so they should be. I am embarassed to say that I never really got to know you very well, and until recently was unaware of the difficulties you have faced. I admire your courage, and am greatful to have gotten to know more about you through your writtings.
    Recently I lost $110.00 dollars, it must have fallen out of my pocket. I was very angry, not only because that is a weeks pay for me (I’m in college working a small part time job), but it happened at work, and no one knew anything about it. But, it reminded me of the last time I lost money, I was 18 and lost $50.00, I was only making around $125.00 a week at the time. I had visited your parents at the time and remarked that ‘ I just hoped who ever found it needed it more than me’. I just got over my anger and said the same thing to myself, I hope who ever found it needed it more than me. It didn’t bother me anymore, and I wasn’t angry anymore. What goes around comes around as they say. There are a lot of young people who beg on the streets here in Edinburgh, I give money sometimes, sometimes I don’t. Thanks to reading about your experiences, and what happened last week, it reminded me, there are people who need it more than me. –
    THANK YOU MIKE!!! Keep up the good work. I always knew you were very intellegent, now I know how intellegent you really are!
    With love,
    Lorna

  6. Mom February 13, 2007 at 9:15 pm

    Mike,

    You are such a blessing to your family! Your Dad and I are very proud of you. So many people don’t know that there are no such things as coincidences. I wrote to you about your career decision elsewhere but in this comment I just want to say, ask God to open the right door for you and I know He’ll answer. Like Heather, I’ve had a couple of whacks on the head too, but He’s usually more gentle. You really can’t go wrong Mike – you’re blessed.

    Love you, Ma

  7. Tammy September 11, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    This is the first time I’ve read your blog, and I have to say, I was blown away 🙂 God sent you the second pigeon because He saw how you cared for the first one…His creature. The bible says God sees even the sparrow when it falls. He loves all of His creatures, even to the lowest ones. The beggar received as much blood from Jesus as the rich man. It isn’t up to us to decide if someone will use the money we give for what we think they should. We need to give…just as Jesus gave His precious blood for all, knowing some would reject His sacrifice. Is money more important than the blood of our Savior and Lord? The money we give to the beggar just might be the last $2.00 he needs to buy a bus ticket back home and straighten his life out. We don’t know. It isn’t up to us to decide. Jesus took the burden of making that decision from us when He gave His all.

    I know I’m “preaching to the choir” 🙂 It’s wonderful to see another who understands our mission.

    • Mike Kriskey September 13, 2010 at 8:22 pm

      Thanks for the kind words, Tammy!

  8. Diane August 16, 2013 at 12:22 am

    I think I might be doing a beggar a bigger grace by not giving. If his street sources dry up, a beggar would be forced to get a job or visit a charity where he might get counseling, job training, rehab or Christian outreach. I was recently approached for money right outside a Catholic charity. I have had psychiatric problems myself and I used to shake horribly from medicine I had to take. Thank God there are better medicines for my condition now. But I worked in a cafeteria at that time. I couldn’t do much but I could dish out food to people. By making a contribution I built up my own self-esteem. I don’t think I am benefiting my brother or sister by allowing him/her to continue down a path of degradation.

  9. www.lookweb.it October 23, 2014 at 8:34 am

    Uno de estos juegos de estrategia para teléfonos móviles que tiene un gran desarrollo
    y calidad, y que se adapta de buena manera a lo que cualquier jugador amante de la estrategia quiere, es Boom Beach, en el que nuestro objetivo, será liberar islas en manos
    de la guarda Oscura y luchar contra ella.

  10. Agent X April 14, 2016 at 12:54 am

    Wow!

    Cool story.

    Looks like I am really late getting here.

    Agent X
    Fat Beggars School of Prophets
    Lubbock, Texas (USA)

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