Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Beggars, Sheep and Goats

Begging in Paris (4199679716)
Have you ever had a beggar follow you till you finally reached your hand into your pocket and parted with your change?  This is a situation that Helene and I face  nearly every time we walk outside.  Even though you might not experience the phenomenon on a daily basis like we do, all of us as Christians must decide our personal response to the poor.  Ever since moving abroad, I have struggled with how God would have me deal with this situation.  My recent reading of Proverbs made me readdress this subject in my heart and in my wallet. 

The first scripture that caught my eye while reading through the book of Proverbs was verse thirteen of chapter twenty-one which says, "He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be answered."  Let me get this straight.  If I walk down the street where the beggars are calling out for help and I keep going for one reason or another, then God won't answer my prayers when I cry out to him in distress.  I don't like this at all.  In Proverbs 22:2 I am reminded that God is the maker of both the rich and the poor.  I shudder to think of the number of times that I have walked by one of these creations of God and turned my back or hurried away to avoid them.  

Jesus addresses these actions very specifically in Matthew 25:31-46.  He sets the stage for the judgment scene.  He talks about how people will be divided into two groups that he calls the sheep and the goats.  The goats are those that haven't followed Him and the sheep represent those pleasing to Him who will be accepted into heaven.  He says that the sheep helped the hungry, thirsty, sick, strangers, those needing clothes, and visited those in prison.  To these he says, "Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:34).  To the others he says, "Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire" (Matthew 25:41).

It is easy to read these passages and start making excuses for myself.  2 Thessalonians 3:10 says, "If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either."  Aren't I just enabling them if I give them money?  They will probably just go and spend the money on alcohol.  God tells me in His word to not judge others (Matthew 7:1).   That is exactly what I am doing with this attitude.  

After more soul searching and reading of Proverbs and other scriptures, I have decided that I must help those in need.  I need to stop making excuses for myself and open my ears to the cry of the poor and do what I can.  I still do not like to give money for the reasons above.  I have started going over and getting some food and giving it to the beggars.  I have been trying to make this food that will truly nourish them and not just fill their belly.  After all, God blesses me richly.  What I am giving is still just a pittance, but at least it is a baby step in the right direction.  Please share how you or those around you fulfill the ideals set forth in Matthew 25.     
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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