There are beggars everywhere here. I don’t believe I can walk for five minutes without at least one beggar pleading for money. Many thoughts go through my head. Why are there so many beggars? How did they end up being a beggar? Where are they sleeping? Why are they not working? Should I bequeath the beggar with the contents of my pocket?
When you are faced with hundreds of beggars, who is it that you should give to? One of them? Five of them? How do you decide? Should you give to the old woman with arthritic hands, the man who gets around on his hands and wears leather to protect his backside, the blind man, the poor woman with the new born baby or why not the man who smells of urine and is sleeping under the cardboard and not begging? I have come across several philosophies on giving to beggars.
I should give because they are in need and I have something to give. This person sees a need and wants to help the person directly. In giving they trust the beggar will use this money for needs. This may be giving money, taking them out for a meal among many other things. Others may ask, does begging beget begging? Have I just encouraged this person to beg rather than finding a trade?
I should not give to the beggar, but to a charity or organization that helps get people off the streets and meets their needs while equipping them. This person believes that by giving to an organization they will be providing food, clothes, a shelter and training to help them get a job. There is an old saying, “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime”. Another person may wonder how much of what he gives to an organization ends up going to the staff and never reaches the hands of those in need.
I will give to the beggar because this is a privilege. Here in Ethiopian the Orthodox church teaches that if a beggar comes to you and asks for something, you should be honored. Because they have asked you, they have given you the chance to increase your rewards in heaven. They say “More beggars please!” I do not believe there is anything that will get anyone to Heaven besides accepting Christ’s gift of grace. The things that people do is a reflection of their heart, not a check list of things to do to get to Heaven.
In Phillipians 2, Paul asks us to imitate Christ’s humility by considering others better than ourselves and to look after the interests of others. I am challenged by this. I may love the poorest of poor, but I have never thought of them as better than myself. And this still doesn’t tell me who to give to or how to give. I think King David, in Psalm 139:13-16 gives a perfect image of how I should think of these beggars. Everyone is so important to God. He shaped us before we were born; he put our bones together while we was still in our mothers’ wombs… nothing took place that He didn’t know. There is nothing secret and mysterious. He knows how long we will live even before we are born. His thoughts are tender and vast. If we wanted to count the times He has thought of us, it would be like counting the sand on the seashore.
I pray that God will change my heart to see others as better than myself and to always have humility. It is so easy to get irritated by all of the beggars. I still don’t know who to give to or how I should be giving. I have tried to figure out what the right thing to do is. It is hard. Share your thoughts.