Loving the Homeless and Poor

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–