Search This Blog

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What Is Our Real Responsibility to the Poor?

I have a lot of people ask me for money. I don't have a lot but many of them believe that I am an easy mark They believe that every preacher will believe any story that is told. That is not who I am. I question the people and often catch them in lies. Some of them have told so many lies that they do not recognize the truth.

I am torn by this questioning. Do I have a responsibility to discern which people really need help and those who are just con artists? Am I helping people with addictions when I merely give them money without such discernment?

I have heard so many preachers say that they merely give money without any questions because any lies which have been told will be judged some day. I believe that is abdication of responsibility. I believe we have a responsibility to those around us to discern whether there is a need. I believe we must stop helping people destroy themselves.

Imagine that you are a rope salesman. Someone asks you to give them a rope. Do you ask what he wants to do with it or do you merely give it to him because you have so much extra rope? What if he hangs himself with the rope that you gave him? Did you neglect your responsibility to him by failing to ask him why he wanted it? I think so.

I used to give money to people after asking them if they would use it to buy alcohol. They would deny that they drank. Afterwards, I followed them to the liquor stores. They didn't waste any time. They went directly there. I have been asked for gas money. I have gone to the gas station with them to find that I couldn't get much gas in their tanks because they were already full. They thought they could get money for gas without my appearance at the station.

 I bought a meal for a man who told me that he hadn't eaten in three days. Having fasted from one to forty days I know what it is to be hungry. I knew what I would do if I got a good hot meal after having nothing to eat for three days. Three days is the height of hunger. I sat with him to observe that he wasn't hungry at all.

I can continue with story after story of those who have tried successfully and unsuccessfully to scam me. I have been appreciative of our church's policy. We feed people. We do not give money, pay rent or utilities nor do we pay for hotel rooms. We have found that we can feed thousands of people with the money which would have only helped a few. Yes, we are still getting scammed but we are not helping people with their addictions.

I wish that we had the time to investigate every person who came to us for food. Many of them arrive in new cars carrying cell phones, sporting new tattoos and expensive nails. Our volunteers often put food next to food that has been collected from other churches. I suspect that we are paying for their cars, cell phones, tattoos and nails.

I wish that we could give these people their honor back. I wish that we could allow them to work for a little while to earn their food but we can't afford to do so. Any work would make them an employee. The compensation of food for work constitutes them as an employee with workman's comp benefits. Merely turning their ankles in our parking lot would cost us dearly. We would also have to exact F.I.C.A. It would just be too expensive.

So, I believe we must help the poor but we must not help them with their addictions. We must discern whether they are going to hurt themselves or refuse to get a job because we have given to them.

Helping the poor is a greater responsibility than merely giving them money.

Proverbs 28:27 (NIV) 27 He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.
2 Thessalonians 3:6-10 (NIV) 6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.
9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."

1 comment:

Anthony Chia said...

Hi Prentis,

I hope you do not mind my commenting on your blog articles. I will try to be considerate, although at times, I might get carried away. Forgive me for such times, and you are free to delete my comment if you feel inclined to (I know we are unable to edit the comments { does NOT allow for that}). Your entries are of the more excellent ones I have come across on the net, and I do visit regularly.

Concerning the matter on hand, perhaps the followings pertain to it:

1. Too many are under the mistaken notion that the Word of God tells them NOT to judge. Preachers often were NOT helpful too, in this regard. I have done some research on this judging matter, and wrote an article, "Did God say we are NOT to judge?" (link: ) It is NOT true that generally we are NOT to judge.

2. Scriptures exhorted discernment and sound judgment (Prov 3:21 for e.g.)

3. Wisdom, too. We are exhorted to ask for that (James 1:5). Solomon asked for that, and that pleased God greatly.

4. Rather we should learn how God wants us to exercise wisdom, discernment, and come to sound judgment.

5. Ask God each time? You can, but perhaps, NOT exactly necessary all the time. It depends on how much one knows of the Word, the will and desire of God, and through "constant use" able to distinguish good from evil (Heb 5:14). But do be sensitive to the Holy Spirit within us.

6. Concerning heart condition:
(a) are we doing it unto the Lord? (Rom 14:6)
(b) by faith through love (Gal 5:6)
(c) do NOT stumble (1 Cor 8:13, Rom 14:21)

(d) Judgment (to give or NOT to give, in this case) should be tempered with mercy (James 2:13)
7. Allow room for God to work, and ask God to work. God can use our little effort or gesture.

8. Don't heap guilt/accountability on yourself unnecessarily (1 Cor 10:25-27). If your suspicion is NOT aroused, just act in good faith. It is alright to sometimes, give people the benefit of doubt.

9. It is alright, sometimes we are being taken advantage of; if our heart condition is right, it is noted down to our credit by the Lord (Prov 19:17).

10. This is NOT exactly disputable matter, but it is nevertheless a highly subjective matter, often it is difficult, without full facts, including what the person felt in his conscience (for the Holy Spirit works there), to say what is done or NOT done is right. If it is more than a one-off thing, like it is to be an on-going effort by a church, always seek the Lord's guidance. I believe God does NOT expect 100% score. When one sows, 100% harvest is NOT expected, some is lost (in this case, to deceivers, but it is alright). Sunshine still falls on the wicked, even as it falls on the righteous (Matt 5:45), at least for now.

Overall, it is NOT wrong to be wise, to be discerning, to come to sound judgment. But whatever one does, but have not love (no love), he is nothing (1 Cor 13:2)

Prentis, thank you for your stimulating entry.

May God continue to bless your effort. Amen. Anthony Chia, high.expressions