Jared C. Wilson: When You Meet a Beggar, Follow the Teachings of Jesus

The situation is ages old. We face beggars today just as the disciples did in the first century.

Walking down the street or pulling out of the grocery store parking lot, you’re confronted by a haggard figure, perhaps holding a sign, telling a familiar story about being homeless or hungry or needing to travel to a certain location or having a car out of gas.

In urban settings or rural, the specific contexts may differ, but the neediness and the opportunities do not.

A hand is outstretched before you. Do you put money in it or do you decline?

Most of us at that point begin to measure up the man or woman before us. Do they look authentically “down and out”? Do they look like an alcoholic or drug addict? Then the street smarts kick in. They will probably just spend it on alcohol. I’m probably just supporting their drug habit. If they put just as much energy into finding a job as begging for money, they wouldn’t be in this situation.

Assumptions and presumptions, not actual knowledge of the person, are thinly veiled justifications for not helping. They help us feel better about saying no.

What does Jesus say?

If you were designing a religious system for maximum ease, it wouldn’t be the Sermon on the Mount. It seems designed to make its adherents “get taken.” Somebody asks for my coat, and I give them my shirt too? Somebody asks for a mile, and I go with them two? Somebody hits me, and I offer them my other cheek? This isn’t even common sense. Jesus is asking us to put ourselves in some very vulnerable positions.

And in Matthew 5:42, He says: Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Immediately we begin thinking of caveats to explain that this doesn’t mean exactly what it says. And maybe some of those are right. For instance, if you know someone’s going to waste money on an addiction, not suspect they are, it’s probably wiser to give them another form of help — a meal, a friendship — in seeking to obey a pretty clear command that comes with no asterisks: “Give to the one who begs from you.”

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Source: Baptist Press