Tonight, as I left Fred Meyer with my groceries, heading to my 2003 Civic, I was approached by a man who told me that he and his friend just ran out of gas and he wanted to know if I could spare a quarter.  I told him that I was sorry, but I didn’t have anything, and he said he could tell that if I did, I would have given him something.  I did have something, but obviously did not help him.  I’m sure his last statement was a ploy to make me feel guilty.

Now, I know this is a scam of some sort, and I wish he had asked for what he really wanted, but I can’t help but feel as if I should do more.  I’m not sure that handouts are the way to go, but as I sit in my relative affluence, I wonder if I am not condemning myself with my lack of action.  It is not that I never give out money, but I don’t on a regular basis.  In the past, on occasion, I would alternately give out gift certificates to McDonald’s, theorizing that then at least, I knew it was going for food and not drugs or alcohol.

And I know that it is only by the grace of God that I am not homeless myself.  The situation I was born into, the parents I have, the opportunities I’ve been given: all have shaped me and put me where I am today.  Every night, I go to bed in a warm apartment, on a soft bed.  Every day, I wake up, have a warm shower, and have a huge selection of clothing to choose from.  I never wonder where my next meal is coming from.  I have a good car that works and gets me where I need to go.

And James 1:27 reads, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”  I think the concept applies to those who are in great need.  I know there are also the verses that say if you don’t work, you don’t eat, but let’s face it: in our economy right now, there are more people than there are jobs, and that is a fact you can’t ignore.  Homelessness is on the rise, and what is the Church doing?  What am I doing?  Is it our place to judge if the receiver is worthy of our giving, or is it merely our place to give and trust God to make the distinctions?  Christ didn’t only heal and help the “worthy.”  This is a hard topic for me to wrestle with, but I feel it should be something we think a bit more about.  It’s easy to ignore when it doesn’t directly touch us…

What are your thoughts?