Let me paint you a picture in words. Some of you may never have experienced this. By in large, I had not until the fall of 2001. Now, I see this picture painted almost on a daily basis. Ok, you are walking along and your mind is focused on the task that lays ahead… it could be a spiritual meeting with someone… it could be a needed doctors appointment… or it could simply be a quick run to the store for a liter of milk. You get off the tram and push along with the rest of the bustling crowd trying to get to your destination.
Suddenly, you see that person who is staring at the crowd with that serious searching face. They appear to be obviously different than the other people in the immediate area. They look almost terrified… sometimes. Other times, they are simply kneeling down with their face in their hands and a cap or cup in front of them. They are in need. Some of them are starving and homeless. In the back of your mind, you also know that some of them are not… they simply want a quick end to a means… to get a little money from you so they can purchase cigarettes and beer. Which scenario is it? Are they really in need OR are they trying to take advantage of you?
This is where it gets tough. What do you do? What should you do? I can honestly say that in many of the places I have worked in Eastern Europe, there is not enough money that I could tap into to ease the pain of all of the homeless and hurting people that I come in contact with. Also, there are those whom I minister to that only want me for what I can give them… not in spiritual terms but in hard cash. What is the answer? I know for sure that Jesus teaches us to have compassion on the poor… especially the widows and orphans. Remember this verse from James… “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” Of course, there are many other verses that address the topic.
Yes, it is also true that there are many who would simply make a game of begging money from others. They are adept at deceiving us and laugh at us behind our backs because we are such easy marks. So, how should we respond? I must admit that I often struggle inside to know how to react to those who I see who seem to be in great need. I have witnessed things which still make me weep when I allow their memories to visit my heart. I also know that at times, I walk past someone whom I probably should have stopped and helped in some way or another… but I didn’t. Those faces haunt me as well. When you do what I do and you see so many needs, about all you can do is rely on the Spirit of God to help you make sense of it. Respond when you feel Him prompting and smile and keep walking when you feel that you should. The real solution is too broad to discuss here when it comes to the responsibilities of governments, churches, and individuals who have vast resources. I think if we would all do a little, the burden would be eased to a great extent. Jesus, give us wisdom to know how to treat our fellow man when we see him in need… amen.