We’ve all seen them…the dirty folks, begging for money on the street corner…or waiting outside of stores sometimes. I admit to sometimes wondering…especially with the folks that I see day after day hanging out by particular stores that I frequently go to. And sometimes it’s true that people make their living begging because it’s easier than working. That is the unfortunate truth. But the problem for me, is that it’s not always the truth.
So let’s say someone approaches you, dirty and disheveled. Do you automatically assume that person doesn’t work? Do you automatically assume that person is a drug addict or alcoholic, and any lack they have is due to choice?
I can tell you, I have been in a position of being dirty and tired and without a home to call my own, and looking for work, unable to find steady employment. But still working hard when I could. And I’ve seen that look of people toward me…that look that said I was a member of the underbelly of society, so to speak.
It’s true that I can say some choices that I made led me to that place. But those choices were not made, thinking I would be led to that place, and they could have turned out differently. That’s really one of the remarkable things to me. A person can make a bold move in life and if it turns out well, everyone is hailing them as being so smart to have taken that chance, because it led to such success. But if that person makes a choice that does not turn out well, there are all sorts of people (the same ones who would be saying the opposite if things were different) telling them what they should do, or should have done…saying they were dumb to take such a chance…it’s their own fault…etc.
Jesus said “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Read Matthew 25:31-46) So then, who are the least? Verse 35 uses the word ‘stranger’ in there. So Jesus wasn’t just talking about people we know something about. And what if you do give a person the benefit of the doubt and help them, and it turns out they are not truly in need? Seems to me that they’re the ones who would have to answer to that. I’m only responsible for what I do.
This is a topic that really hits me in the heart…because I do know what it’s like to be that ‘stranger’. And I know what it’s like for people to act out of kindness in that situation…though I am sad to admit that most of the Christians I encountered did not. And that pains me to admit. I’m not saying that no Christians acted kindly through it. Just that many did not, and some who helped way above what I would or could’ve ever imagine were not only not Christians, but people who many Christians would condemn for their lives.
But not all non-Christians acted kindly either. It’s just about people…people being judgmental and unkind because they make assumptions about other people that may or may not be true, instead of just helping another human being.
In my lifetime, I have been in a position to help others at times, and I did so. I don’t say that for accolades, because I don’t want accolades nor do I even think I deserve them! I’m just saying it because I have also been in the opposite situation. Even now, while things are not the worst they have ever been, I have been and still am in a position of needing help from others in ways, like rides to and from appointments and church and classes, currently living here with my daughters, etc. Believe me, I’d rather be in the position of being able to help than being in need of help. It’s a lot more comfortable and you get a lot less of those ‘looks’ or ‘whispering behind your back’ that way…and it just makes a person feel good to do things for others.
That said, there is something in all that I have had to deal with, in this discomfort of mine through my need. I’ve realized that I often would pray to God, “Bless me so that I can bless others”…nothing wrong with that prayer. But in the sense of asking God for monetary blessing so that I can help my kids out, or help other people I care about, or anyone who needs it, it struck me that instead of praying that God would bless and help those people…I wanted to be the one to help. There is a lot of pridefulness in that. I still pray for the things I need, and some that I want. But in terms of people I know who are in need, I do pray that God will provide for them now, instead of praying that He’ll provide for me so that I can provide for them. What arrogance that was on my part, if you think about it!
I am begging you today though, in terms of helping others, to please not judge people so harshly to begin with. You do not know…and even if you do know, or you’re right in an assumption that the person’s on drugs or an alcoholic or just lazy…your actions…your kindness and mercy could be a huge witness to them. I mean as a Christian, I have to think of how fortunate I am to have a God who has shown me such mercy…and continues to do so even when I mess up.
Love and blessings,