What do you do when you see the cardboard-sign-holding man or woman on the street corner? Do you avert your eyes, pretend no one is there, and hope for a quick green light? Do you make eye contact, smile, and continue on your way? Or?
“‘If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks…
You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings.'” ~ Deuteronomy 15:7-8, 10 (NASB)
God is pretty clear about the issue of caring for the poor. We are to open our hands and hearts to them, and generously give. The question, then, is not if we should give, but how we should give.
In this day of economic struggle, more and more people are out of work and out of homes and on the streets or in shelters. There are a myriad of ways we can help the poor in our land.
Donate time, food, or money to a local shelter. Donate to or volunteer at a food bank. Support local industries that run programs to help people who are struggling. (Locally, we have Christ Kitchen, Cup of Cool Water, Habitat for Humanity, Anna Ogden Hall, Union Gospel Mission, various thrift stores…I know there are dozens more I cannot think of right now, but do some research; find something that peaks your interest and grabs your heart.) Add an extra dollar when you pay your power bill to share with those who cannot pay their own. Sponsor a child (many organizations offer ways to help hurting kids in the United States, in addition to their international sponsorships). Hand out $5 gift cards for McDonalds, or some other prolific chain restaurant, so they can buy a hot meal. Carry granola bars, and attach info for the local shelters. Go the extra mile and buy some food for that person holding the sign saying they are hungry. And if God moves your heart, give them a dollar or two. (But be aware, most of the time this is not the best option, since it helps fuel the addictions that hold some of them captive on the streets to begin with. Let the Holy Spirit show you when to give money.)
Bottom line? When we give, we should give freely, with no strings, no resentment, no judgment, no expectations. What God has given us is not ours to begin with. It is all a gift from Him, and we should be willing to give it away and share with others. And we are all sinners, saved by grace. No one is “better” than anyone else.
If you feel you have nothing to give that person on the street corner, you are wrong. Look them in the eye, smile, nod, and say a prayer for them. Show them you think they are worth noticing, worth caring about. God loves them and cares about them. We should, too.
*Note: I am not trying to oversimplify the problems our homeless and poor face. There are so many issues and struggles and situations that it all can be overwhelming. But like the starving kiddos we see in other countries, we can make a difference in one life. One person at a time, one little act of kindness, one smile, one meal…