“A couple of weeks ago I took my family to see London. As we were coming down the stairs at Westminster Bridge there was a homeless man begging for money. Without thinking I pulled my son near to protect him. Only then I realized that my instant reaction was entirely wrong. I treated that man like he was about to attack rather than needing help. We later tried to find him to offer food but he had gone. I felt even sadder that I missed my opportunity to help.” Muralitharan
Recently, I faced a dilemma. A couple appeared at our church and asked for help. Although originally from our area they recently moved back after he lost his job: Now they were here with no car, not even a license to drive, virtually no possessions and nowhere to go. Was I handed an opportunity to help a couple in need or was I being conned?
“Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing and you say, “Well good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” (James 2:15-16) Since publishing this story, I’ve received dozens of emails filled with stories, advice and prayers. Here is an edited sampling.
“My husband and I were like that couple and amazingly we had almost all positive experiences as we ‘lived by faith’ for a year. One couple took us home for a steak dinner and opened her closet and told me to, ‘take anything I need.’ Some churches were incredibly prepared to help those in need. In Salt Lake City, a ministry offered clothes, an opportunity to help feed the homeless on Christmas Day and a job if we stayed there. The only ‘negative’ reaction was when we hadn’t bathed for awhile and my husband asked at a church if he could use the washroom. The pastor looked him up and down and said it was not a public washroom. We got cleaned up at a camp nearby. On Sunday, we dressed up for the service. The same pastor came over and told my husband he looked familiar, ‘did they meet before somewhere?'” Pat
“A guy approached me at a restaurant and asked for food. I told him to sit down and I’d pay for lunch. He seemed hesitant at first, then thanked me and sat down. I had the clerk come over and told him to take the guy’s order. The clerk tried to ‘help’ me by refusing but I insisted. He ordered a hamburger; that’s all. I asked if he’d like fries. He said yes. Then I asked about something to drink. He said, ‘just water.’ But I asked if he’d like a soda and he said yes. The manager told the man to leave and not come back after eating lunch. The man thanked me for helping him. I felt that I lunched with God. I’ve never regretted helping someone who was hungry.” Lisa
“Like you, I would’ve been skeptical. I would’ve felt terrible seeing them walk in when I doubted their intentions. Sometimes I find myself doing for others less fortunate and I teach my children the importance because we’re all ‘one paycheck’ away from needing help. What I need to work on is consistently helping and not judging along the way: that’s not my role.” Tracie
“We should be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove. It’s better to be gullible than cynical. I’ve given money to someone who was probably a con (but don’t regret it). I’ve offered food to beggars instead of money (and been sworn at). My problem is that I do a mental risk assessment before doing anything. Jesus calls us to lay down our life rather than do a risk assessment.” Mark
“I met a family who just moved in. When I went to get the kids some food there was little there. The next day after church, my son Max and I went to the store and bought everything from paper towels to peanut butter. We delivered the food and they were surprised! Things were tight and they needed help. Now if a single Mom and five year old son can do that imagine what an entire church could do. Hope this helps others to realize if I can do it so can they. Rachael & Max
“I think every opportunity is a way to show forth God’s goodness even when you’re being taken for a ride. I know situations where people came to cheat and end up being saved.” Victoria
“Other than money, I guess we could give them jobs to do in church, like cleaning etc—at the same time monitoring and not forgetting to keep them covered in prayers and teaching the Word of GOD, and loving them. It’s good to be discerning and wise concerning strangers. I understand the difficult decision you have to make. I look forward to reading next week’s answer.” Molly
Next: Larry shares the rest of the story and provides his own answers for taking action.