While helping a friend set up for an event at her church, a young woman (probably no older than 25) reluctantly walked into the open doors asking for money. She said she was homeless, didn’t have a car, and was very hungry.
At the time I was single, in my early 20’s, and struggling to make money myself, so I didn’t have much. But, I wanted to at least find enough so she could go to a fast food place somewhere.
The other people standing around began scolding me…. in front of the young woman…who clearly looked embarrassed and humiliated already.
One warned, “Don’t give her money. She’s only going to spend it on drugs.”
Another bitterly stated, “You’re better off giving her a number to a homeless shelter.”
Yet another complained, “I’ve been scammed way too much to ever help again.”
Now I was the embarrassed one.
I handed the young woman money and told her where she could find a shelter and offered to drive her there later if she wanted. With tears in her eyes, she thanked me for the money and said,
“No, I’ll find a place” as she glanced at the people behind me snickering and shaking their heads.
After the young woman left, I turned to them and answered,
“I don’t have any control over where, when, or how she will spend the ten dollars I just handed her. But what I can control is how I respond to God when He leads me to help someone. God said, ‘Give,’ so I gave.”
Here we were, setting up for a church event in the hopes of bringing more people to Jesus, yet we were blind to see the lost, hurting, and hungry right in front of us.
Sometimes, we are so busy trying to do ministry activities that we forget what ministry really is: being the hands and feet of Jesus.
During His ministry, Jesus never ignored someone’s physical needs while trying to teach or preach.
Looking at the feeding of the five thousand found in Matthew 14, Jesus was concerned about getting the crowd food before continuing with healings and teachings. The disciples, however, wanted to send them away thinking their physical hunger was an inconvenience (After all, they had important ministry to get back to!).
But Jesus refused:
16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” ~Matthew 14:16
Jesus didn’t see the people’s hunger as an inconvenience to ministering to them. Instead, He demonstrated the very act of setting aside “ministry activity” to deal with a basic human need, was part of ministry.
Later Matthew records the words of Jesus, and it’s crystal clear:
34 “… Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” ~Matthew 25:34-40
Followers of Jesus should be on the front lines of serving, giving, and loving in addition to preaching, teaching, worship, and prayer.
This doesn’t mean we’re to be careless with the money God blesses us with or allow ourselves to be taken advantage of. This only limits the amount of resources we will have to help someone who actually needs it.
When someone says they’re hungry, I normally buy them food or find out what items they need and take them shopping instead of just handing out money.
Some people need rehab, counseling, or some other kind of professional help before you can help them. This is why we need to rely on Holy Spirit to guide us. There is a difference between helping and enabling. To know the difference read this.
In my example, God was leading me to give to that particular woman on that particular day. I was following His guidance.
Are there people who will try to scam you? Yes.
Will some use food and clothing to trade for alcohol or drugs? Yes.
Does this mean we’re off the hook from feeding, clothing, and loving the next person God puts in our path? NO.
We (myself included) need to cut away the vines of complacency that have begun to grow around our hearts.
Step out of the driver’s seat of your life and allow the Holy Spirit to guide your wallet and your actions. When He leads you to help someone, DO it.
Oh and for the record, sometime later that day, I was driving through a parking lot and saw the young woman stuffing her face with a burger and fries. God knew she was truly in need and wanted me to be Jesus to her.
So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t allow your hearts to become jaded.
We still have work to do.