Do you have people looking for handouts on the street corners in your town? Ten years ago, I would have said, “Not in my neighborhood,” but recently we’ve had people with signs posted near our grocery store. While visiting in Singapore, I learned that they have an unemployment rate of less than 3%, and the guide thought it was because “vagrancy” is considered a crime punishable by a public beating with a bamboo pole! While this seems very severe, the Bible does suggest that people who are unwilling to work should not be allowed to eat (i.e., no handouts for lazy bums, 2 Thessalonians 3:10). However, I have a friend who is a missionary in France and routinely gives alms to the poor, believing that if the poor could do better, they would. In fact, there’s an extremely high statistical correlation between homelessness and chronic mental illness, particularly if it’s co-occuring with substance abuse and/or chronic physical illness. So, what can we do as ordinary citizens? I’d been pondering what to do for the folks who stand on the corner near my grocery store, and an answer came to me Saturday as a result of spending the day helping out at an inner city ministry. A group of about 20 young adults gathered to prepare good lunches and toiletry bags that included handwritten notes of encouragement and scripture verses, and then we went out in small groups to distribute the food as gifts from Jesus, inviting folks to visit Take Hold Church (a daughter ministry from our church) just around the block on the main thoroughfare of our city in “Heartside,” the poorest area of town. Although it was a little intimidating, no one was hurt, and almost everybody was polite and appreciative. In fact, they practically flocked to us once they knew what we were doing! As I returned home, reflecting on the experience, I saw a daffodil that had been uprooted while Alan and Stephen were raking leaves. It was all wilted and lying in the driveway. I love flowers, and so I picked it up and stuck it in the vase on our kitchen table. This morning, the daffodil looked totally revived and as beautiful as any in the gardens that hadn’t been uprooted. I’m going to pack a lunch before I shop, and if someone is looking for a handout, I’ll give them my lunch and a gospel tract. Money can be mis-spent, but food is a gift you know is good, and perhaps mine will help revive a soul that’s been uprooted and is lying all wilted beside the road of life.
“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).
(P.S.—This afternoon I got so inspired that I went out and found all the daffodils that had fallen over along our driveway. Hopefully, I’ll be as outreaching to people, who are worth infinitely more than flowers!)