Deeply troubled by this...

I moved to this great city of Chicago almost seven years ago. It has been quite an adventure, in every sense of the term. This is the first time I've ever lived in a "big city" for this length of time. The last time was when I lived in Oslo, Norway for two years. Oslo is considerably smaller than Chicago.

This is my quandry:

I am constantly being approached by people wanting "money." I can hardly get on the bus every morning without being approached by at least one person telling me that he/she is hungry and wants something to eat. The evenings aren't always as bad, but sometimes it can be even worse in the afternoons/evenings.

Panhandling is supposedly illegal in the Windy City...but nothing is done about it...but that's another post.

In the seven years that I've lived here, I have:

*offered to buy them food, and have them reject my offer.
*offered to buy them food, and then watch them throw it away as soon as they could once I've given it to them;
*offered to get them to a homeless shelter (usually Pacific Garden Mission), and have them make excuses as to why they can't go there.

I've never given them money--and right now, I have no intentions of doing so.

I'm particularly troubled by the words of Jesus as He instructed His disciples in the Gospels concerning those in need. I don't want to be classified with the "goats" in Matthew 25.

I am truly concerned about those in need. I will buy food for just about anyone--if I have the money to do so. I've been hungry, and it's not a good feeling. But I also don't want my generosity to be abused, and I've seen that it has been on more than one occasion.

I'm in a quandry over this...What say ye?


retro said...

Well... I'll tell ya'!

This issue is about 2 things - compassion and control. As servants of Christ, we should be aware that when we turn someone down, we *could* be turning Him down!

With that sober outlook, we then must recognize that it is not our money to give away anywhere. I've thought about this and have developed a way to preserve my integrity and offer to help the poor - but I need to remain in "control" of the situation. If I am not in control, they are.

Basically if someone wants food, I offer to give food to them. Usually this turns into a plea for "money", and then I remind the person that they wanted "food", but I cannot give "money". I will drive them to a supermarket if necessary.

Bottom line is that this simple procedure weeds out the truly needy from those who want money. I avoid guilt since they walk away from me, not vice versa.

I had a post on this awhile back. Homeless Post

Incidentally, I got to give a homeless guy a lift to the hospital yesterday. Got to pray for him and tell him God loves him, the whole 9 yards.


Joe Misek said...

Good post, Phil.

The big point here is that they are claiming to be hungry, but turning down food. I would imagine that's a tip-off that they have other plans for that money.

When I lived in the city, I was once walking home and walked past a guy asking for money to get home. I offered to pop my CTA card for him when the next bus arrived, and I offered to get my car and drive him somewhere. He refused both. I think he had other intentions.

I say, offer to help them. Actually doing something is more relational, anyway. If the point is to be Jesus to the needy, I don't know if they'll see Jesus if you just give them money and walk away. They'll just see George Washington, or whoever the president is on the bill.