Loving the Homeless and Poor

homeless

Last night I witnessed something that sickened me.

I was asked to lead a time of worship at an interdenominational gathering of Charismatic Christians. As I was carrying my keyboard into the banquet hall, a homeless man jumped off a bus and approached me.

“Hey man, you got any pop bottles or change on you?”

I was carrying a heavy piece of equipment, but I paused momentarily and said, “I’m sorry, I wish I did. I hope you can find some, though.” I then proceeded into the building to set up the equipment.

Then I had this thought. What if I invited him in as my “honored guest” and gave him my meal from the banquet? Not only would this guy get a meal, but he would have an opportunity to receive ministry.

So I hurried back to the door to find him; but when I got there, the man was being escorted out by some of the greeters. They were ignoring his pleas and closing the door on him.

To be completely honest, I wish I had acted on my previous thought and invited him in. I wish I could say I was that much like Jesus, but I was unfortunately intimidated by the “bouncers” at the door. I’ve since repented, but I still wish I had handled it differently.

I did, however, go outside and apologize to the gentleman for the way he was treated. He graciously received.

“You know what I need?” He asked.

“What’s that?” I asked as I chewed a piece of Trident.

“I need a piece of peppermint gum.”

“That I can do!” But as I reached into my pocket to pull out my fresh pack of gum, I felt so wrong giving the man only one piece. And for that matter, as I looked at the fifteen pieces I had, I felt awkward holding onto any of it.

Matthew 5:40-42–And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (NIV)

“Here,” I said, “I want to give you all of this. I’ll be praying for you.”

As I handed the man my pack of gum, I was incredibly bothered about everything that was happening. Here I was standing in a crowd of so-called “Charismatic Christians” who wouldn’t give a homeless man the time of day.

To be fair to those running the event, I didn’t see any of them giving this man the boot. I don’t believe this experience reflected on the leaders of the event–especially since I know their track-record and heart for the homeless. Nevertheless, this gave me a clear insight into a huge problem with many in the Charismatic movement.

We pride ourselves in being the believers who understand and embrace spiritual gifts, but we’re offering little of substance to the world. If you read First Corinthians 12 and 14, you will learn about spiritual gifts. But the chapter in the middle, chapter 13, is all about love. Without that love in the middle, all we have is an empty sandwich.

Last night I was bothered. As one minister after the next came up to the front, as dancers waved their flags, as people jumped, shouted, and clapped, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ words: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:45). Did any of it count? Was Jesus even present, or was He busy walking that homeless man back to his box?

1 John 3:17–If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? (NIV)

I felt like many of those present were feasting on empty sandwiches. We celebrated the gifts of the Spirit, but we missed an opportunity to love someone. Not only was that homeless man deprived of an actual meal; he was deprived of a spiritual meal.

I’ve noticed that many in the church are cautious about giving money to the homeless. “Well,” they argue, “What if he just goes back out and buys drugs? Then I purchased drugs!”

No. You’re wrong. You didn’t purchase drugs. Rather, you gave $20 to Jesus. If that man wants to purchase drugs with Jesus’ money, then he’ll answer to God for that. Jesus didn’t tell the Church to give to the poor unless you think they just want to get drunk. No. He said to give to the poor because when you give to them, you give to Him.

Matthew 25:37-40–“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (NIV)

Our responsibility is not to the poor; it is to Jesus. And if we love Him, then we will act on it. And how do we act on it? By loving the poor. By giving to those who are less fortunate. By considering others more highly than ourselves. By forsaking everything this world has to offer so that He may receive all the glory.

I challenge you to be a different kind of Charismatic Christian. Love the homeless. Don’t waste your resources on yourself. We need to realize that for the Christian, this world is the worst that eternity is ever going to get; so who cares how much we give away? But for the person who doesn’t know Jesus, this world is the best that eternity is ever going to get–unless someone reveals Christ to them through active love.

I’m tired of Christian conferences where hundreds of so-called “believers” pay hundreds of dollars to pack auditoriums simply so they can experience or learn something “from God” that the homeless man outside can’t afford to attend. Is this what Jesus died for?

Luke 14:12-14–Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (NIV)

God bless,
–Art–

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7 Responses to “Loving the Homeless and Poor”

  1. WengNovember 13, 2010 at 2:44 pm #

    dear art,
    you are right. and i hate people professing to be christians but have not love, raising hands in praise but not doing something to people around them that needs help. “whatever you have done to the least of your brethren, you have done it unto me.” my ministry is all about loving others even the unlovable in our community. christians need to be visible where unbelievers are.
    blessings,
    Weng

    • ArtNovember 13, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

      Thanks for commenting, Weng. I agree that Christians need to be visible where unbelievers are. As a youth pastor, I often hear students say that there are no other Christians in their schools. I like to answer, “Sure there are–there just aren’t any Christians DOING anything in your school. So the question is, what are you doing to let people know that you’re a Christian?”

      Keep ministering to the poor!
      –Art

  2. DawnNovember 13, 2010 at 4:44 pm #

    Wow, that is so powerful Art! Amen, and Amen! Thank you for sharing and exposing your own heart.

    • ArtNovember 13, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

      Thanks, Dawn. I appreciate the encouragement.

      God bless!
      –Art

  3. SueliNovember 14, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    I hope you sent this email to some of the those on this event. You’ re so right. That homeless man should have been the “guest of honor” for sure. Blessings.

    • ArtNovember 14, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

      Hi Sueli,

      Yes, I did share the e-mail. Though I will again say, as I did in the article, that the leaders of the event are known for their passion for the homeless, so I don’t fault any of them. This was just a problem with some of the attendees who thought that they were doing the right thing.

      Thanks for commenting!
      –Art

  4. AnneDecember 10, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    I agree with you to an extent but not completely. God gave us a mind and He called us to be good stewards. If we give money to every homeless person we see or to every person that calls the church asking for help and we say “Well, whatever he or she does with the money is between them and God, my part is just to give because when I give I am giving to Jesus” I believe that is being irresponsible. If Jesus were here today I don’t think He would go around blindly giving money to every person who asked without knowing something about that person’s situation and what their needs really were. I don’t think Jesus would be interested in supporting a persons alcohol or drug addiction.

    Inviting them into the service would have been a great idea. Who knows if they would have taken you up on the invitation. That may be somewhat idealistic on your part to think that they would have come in. I work with some transients and I invite them to services and fellowship dinners often to no avail. But they will gladly take five dollars to buy cigarettes. That’s just the way it is. I am not suggesting that we don’t give to homeless people or that what you experienced was right. I am saying that poverty is a much deeper problem than just handing someone some change and thinking that you have done what Jesus would do. We have to be careful not too judge too quickly and not to let our emotions cloud our thinking. We want to help people move out of poverty. That requires compassion, but it also requires discernment and help to grow. Handing someone a couple bucks is easier and tends to make us feel better but that doesn’t mean it actually is better.

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