Today is Outreach Thursday, and this question comes up a lot, so let’s tackle it first. Should a Christian give money to panhandlers?
This is a complex issue. On the one hand we have the divine compulsion and inward desire to help those who need our assistance (Matthew 25:31-46, Luke 6:27-36), while on the other we worry that our generosity will be misspent on things that are more harmful than good (like drugs or alcohol).
So what should we do? After some reading and talking to experts, I’ve concluded that giving cash to people on the street is not a good way to help them. The best way is to support local programs (InnerCity, Food Bank, etc.) which are designed to serve their needs, and have the expertise to deal with those who seek to abuse the system. I talked to one inner city program leader who said he wishes people would give less money to panhandlers so they would be forced to participate in the programs set up to help them best.
That said, I remember a time when a young, pregnant woman stopped me in the parking lot of the Home Depot and asked me for some money so she could buy a burger at the McDonalds. Did I send her away to find an official program? No, I gave her enough to buy a combo. Did I follow her to make sure she got the burger? No. Do I regret giving her the money? No. Would I do it again? Yes.
I believe that we must be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16) in these matters, and that means educating ourselves about local poverty issues, encouraging our churches to support local programs, and praying for wisdom so we don’t fall prey to those who would abuse Christian charity. However, when faced with an ‘extreme situation’ like the young woman at Home Depot, we must trust the Holy Spirit within us and err on the side of generosity.
What do you think? Have you thought about this before? How have you helped panhandlers and homeless people in the past?
I am compelled to write my first “Fellowship Wednesday” post about what I believe is the most poisonous thing to a fellowship of believers — gossip.
As pastor of a former church I spent time in the office meeting with people. One day a man came in for a chat. On the way out afterwords he said, “Oh, I probably shouldn’t tell you this but…”. And I stopped him cold. “Then don’t tell me.”, I said. He persisted, “No really, I shouldn’t tell you this but…”. So I said, “No really… don’t tell me.” and started to walk away. He walked after me. I started running. He started running after me yelling, “I shouldn’t tell you this… but I want to tell you!!!”. I literally ran him out the door trying to avoid gossip!
Gossip is deadly. It destroys trust between people and therefore kills friendships. If left alone it can cripple ministries and destroy good leaders. I hate gossip, and so does God.
I’ve been around the effects of pervasive gossip among believers, and it breaks my heart. Most of us know how much it hurts to be talked about behind our backs, the damage it can do to a community, and how much it grieves God, but so many still get caught up in it. It’s like Proverbs 18:8 says, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels…” Sometimes we’re in the middle of the conversation, and half swallowed the morsel, before we even realize what we’re doing!
I think part of the reason is that we don’t know what gossip is. Let’s take a look at what scripture says it is:
- Proverbs 11:13 – “A gossip betrays a confidence…” Anytime someone shares something they heard privately, it is gossip.
- Proverbs 16:28 – “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” Anyone sharing information to embarrass a person, cause division in a group, or harm a relationship is gossiping.
- Proverbs 26:20 – “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.” Anyone sharing a problem that is already being (or has been) dealt with is gossiping.
Romans 1:29 (among other places) says that gossip is evil. A strong fellowship must be free of gossip. If you find yourself around gossip, take a page out of Joseph’s book and just run away from it. Let us all be careful with our words and to bring our concerns to God first, and then to the person we have an issue with. More info here.
What about you? Are you a gossip? Have you been gossiped about? How far have you gone to avoid gossiping?
I’ve always loved watching and playing sports. And anyone who does knows that there is one word phrase that pervades all sportsdom — “We’ve got to get back to the fundamentals.”
If our team is on a losing streak, the answer is always getting “back to the fundamentals.” If you are practicing, you spend time “working on the fundamentals.” If you go to training camp, or a draft, do you know what they look for? “The fundamentals”. They are where everyone starts, and what everyone must master.
That being the case, what are “the fundamentals” of discipleship? Sometimes, just like when I was playing baseball, I start to get too fancy with my Christian walk. Instead of simply trying to learn more about Him, and making space for God to speak, I try to get fancy by reading a lot of books, trying exotic prayer techniques, moving around different locations, or trying to multitask by doing devos while working out, driving, or doing the dishes.
Not that any of that is bad (in fact, my earlier article was all about meeting God in every part of our lives) — it’s just that fancy techniques can be distracting and sometimes cause me can drop the ball.
So my challenge over the next while is to “get back to the fundamentals”. What does that mean?
- To allow God to inhabit every part of my day.
- To read less scripture, but meditate on it more.
- To find a regular place and time to pray.
- To come to church simply to meet God there.
What about you? Do you struggle with the fundamentals? Do you ever get too “fancy” with your spiritual life? What ways can we “get back to the fundamentals”?
Connecting with God in a meaningful way is so much more than sitting in a quiet room with your hands folded, head bowed, eyes closed. Relating to God is unlike any other relationship in your life, and the ways you can meet Him in your daily life are nearly unlimited. This blog intends to explore as many of those ways as possible.
Do you believe that you can have the presence of God with you throughout your day? Can you use any of these words to describe your relationship with Him?
Or is your relationship to your Creator and Saviour limited to fifteen minutes in the morning and evening, and a prayer before you eat?
Have you ever wondered if there could be more to your spiritual life? There can. Let’s explore how together.