Some time ago, as my wife and I were leaving a restaurant, a young man approached us with a hard-luck story about a broken down automobile and needing to get to work. His destination was in the opposite direction of our travels so he asked for money to help pay cab fare. By nature, I am a very skeptical person. My wife, in contrast, is very trusting and giving. As I wrestled with the tension between my natural inclination and what I knew to be my wife’s desire, I thought about the spiritual implications of my situation.
At busy intersections in every major city, we see men and women who practice the ancient art of begging. Wearing tattered and out-dated fashions, they survive because some folks are sympathetic and others feel guilty over their good fortune.
Each encounter with one of these boulevard beggars puts us in a dilemma: Do I give money or do I avoid eye contact? When the choice is avoidance, we comfort ourselves with the biblical admonition, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). In spite of the sign that reads, “Will work for food,” we are confident that the pauper will recite a list of excuses when offered employment.
While it is true that some (if not, most) beggars are unwilling to pay the price of meaningful labor, there are people who have genuine financial needs. Many of these situations are temporary but others are more permanent, due to some type of disability or persistent problem. We might desire to provide financial help but feel that we cannot afford to make a significant contribution. Is it fair to ask our family to sacrifice so that we can give to others?
The answer to this quandary is found in the book of Proverbs: “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done” (Proverbs 19:17). In reality, giving to the poor does not result in a loss. Benevolence is investing!
A literal reading of this verse provides important insight about the use of our money with those in need. “He who stoops down to help the weak unites himself with the Lord, and he will reciprocate with a reward.” We now realize that it is certainly good stewardship to reach out (or down) to help those in need.
The real issue changes from affordability to opportunity. When giving to the poor we can no longer consider the cost. Instead, we should seize the opportunity to make an investment with God.