One of the topics of frustration in my home and in my city is homeless people. Apparently, we have become something of a mecca for them in these southern parts of the country. They hang around the interstate in the nicer parts of town with signs that ask for a ride, food, money, etc. They hang around the downtown area where the shelters are located. Our city has created ordinances preventing them to sit, so they lean. Committees have been formed to discuss how to deal with them. It’s a big deal.
It’s not like I’ve never interacted with homeless people. In high school, I spent two summers in D.C. working with a program that placed young people in soup kitchens and churches for the purpose of serving the homeless. I’ve heard some crazy stories–a former major basketball player who got hooked on cocaine and lost everything; a former Georgetown professor whose family was killed by a drunk driver, so he voluntarily walked away from the live he knew. We met mentally ill people, and those who are professionally homeless (meaning they pander for money all day long) who make pretty decent money. I even worked with the homeless back home. Our youth group served dinner once a week a local soup kitchen.
The frustration we feel in our home is a constant argument over scripture versus our personal opinion. Jesus plainly described what would happen to those who do not help those without in Matthew 25:41-43.
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.
Definitely not fun. According to Jesus we should feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome strangers, and clothe those without clothes, and look after those in prison. Hefty charge, eh? Consequences aren’t too pretty to look at either. But the argument in my house is over being taken advantage of by people who choose this lifestyle. Some are completely capable of working, but choose not to. These are the focus, and it angers some in my family because they work so hard themselves to provide.
Do we draw a line on who we should or should not help? Or do we just give money to the shelter to do that for us? It’s a tough question, and one I don’t take lightly. I don’t think Jesus made exceptions, because it isn’t about the intentions of those who are in that situation. It’s about our hearts and our obedience to God. If we quit thinking about what other people plot and scheme, we might just make a difference. If we turn the other cheek, should we wonder why the other person is hitting us? No, we do it anyway because those were these instructions, because somehow, in our obedience, God can change people.