To Give or Not to Give?
by Greg West
In the January issue of Christianity Today , three prominent Christian leaders who work with the poor and homeless were asked the question, “Should Christians always give money to street people who ask for it?”. The three short answers given were, “Yes, freely”; “As a last resort”; and “Absolutely not”. I thought that they all gave good reasons to back up their answers, but the only answer that I thought could be backed up by scripture was the first one; “Yes, freely”.
Now here’s the part where I could start giving you examples from the scriptures to back up my claim, but this time, I would like you to do your own homework; dig into the word yourselves and find out what the Bible says about giving to the poor and needy. If you don’t have a Bible concordance or topical index, there are many of these resources available online for free and I encourage you to use them. BibleGateway.com is a good place to start.
From my understanding of the scriptures, mostly from the teachings of Jesus, is that we are to:
- Give to anyone who asks.
- Not be concerned about getting paid back.
- Not concern ourselves about why they need it or what they are going to do with it.
In the CT column, Gary Hoag (aka the ‘Generosity Monk’), who answered the question, “Yes, freely”, asks us to consider this illustration from C.S. Lewis:
One day Lewis and a friend were walking down the road and came upon a street person who reached out to them for help. While his friend kept walking, Lewis stopped and proceeded to empty his wallet. When they resumed their journey, his friend asked, ‘What are you doing giving him your money like that? Don’t you know he’s just going to squander all that on ale?’ Lewis paused and replied, ‘That’s all I was going to do with it.’
To give, or not to give? What are your thoughts? What have your experiences been when giving to the poor? What are your impressions of some of the images below?
(click picture to view larger image)