Monday, May 20, 2013

"Give to the one who begs..."

In "What to Do When Met with a Beggar," Jared Wilson considers a circumstance that every Christian confronts — and, particularly if you live in a city or are a pastor anywhere, it arises quite frequently. Wilson:
C.S. Lewis’s stepson Douglas Gresham tells the story of Lewis and a friend walking along the street one day when a beggar approached them asking for money. Lewis’s friend kept walking, but Lewis stopped and emptied his wallet, giving the beggar its contents. After rejoining his friend, he was chastised. “You shouldn’t have done that, Jack. He’ll only spend it all on drink.” Lewis replied, “Well, that’s what I was going to do.”

Here’s what I think Jesus wants us to do, and our response to a beggar gives us the opportunity to do it:

The situation is a common one and ages old. We are no more faced with beggars today than the disciples were in the first century. In urban settings or rural, the specific approach and contexts may differ, but the neediness and the opportunities do not. What is your response when a stranger asks for money? ....
  1. Hold our money loosely. I think that’s what Lewis was getting at in the exchange with his friend. He was comparing the beggar’s suspected frivolity with his own known frivolity. Only in the economy of self-justification is my spending $3 on a coffee or even a beer deemed more virtuous than, by presumption, a beggar’s doing the same.
  2. Trust him with people’s sins. Maybe that person will squander what you give them. It’s not our job to manage the expected sins of others. It’s our job to be faithful to God, obedient to his commands. So the better hedging of the bets here is to give out of obedience and trust the beggar’s financial management to the only God who judges the living and the dead. Let us give, and let us let the Lord sort it out.
In one of his Letters to an American Lady, from which we get another version of the “spend it all on drink” story, Lewis writes these other pertinent words on giving to beggars:
It will not bother me in the hour of death to reflect that I have been “had for a sucker” by any number of impostors; but it would be a torment to know that one had refused even one person in need.
No, it’s not street smart or common sense to give to those who ask of you, but it is wise. Very, very wise. It is wise to obey Matthew 5:42 with as few loopholes as you can attach to it because doing so says you obey God, not your suspicions, and you hold your money loosely because God is your God, not money. .... [more]
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