The other night, as my friends and I arrived at Applebee’s, planning to enjoy a night of half-price apps and 45 cent wings, we got out of our vehicle only to witness a lady driving an old, beat up van, quickly pull into the parking lot, poorly parking next to the door we planned to enter. Without fail, after witnessing this sight, many jokes were cracked about the image of the careening vehicle and the parking job. After a couple of good laughs, our joking was interrupted as the woman driving this van called out to us. Her appearance was one of disarray at best. (Later, while having a conversation about this event, the term “meth” was used. Although I personally did not suspect her of such use, I can see why one, from her appearance, might come to that conclusion.) She was panicked. One could hear her stress as she, in a flustered voice, asked if we could give her money for gas, because she was almost out and didn’t have enough to get to her home in a town about 20 miles away. I decided to help her, and drove to a gas station to get her some gas. After putting gas in her tank, she thanked us and drove away.
I share this story, not because I want people to know that I did a generous act, but because of the initial reaction I had with her request. When she first mentioned that she needed gas, the first thought that came to my mind was one which said, “don’t help her, this is probably some sort of scam.” One could assume that the reason I had such a thought is because I, as a sinful person, was thinking out of my selfish human heart. However, the reason I had this thought is because it is something that I have been taught in the most unlikely of places- The Church.
Being the son of a pastor, and growing up in churches which had ministries to those in need, I have grown up seeing people take advantage of the church. I have witnessed and heard many first-hand accounts of times when people who were not in need acted as though they were; and, times when people would grow angry because the church wouldn’t give them money but rather offered gift cards. I grew up hearing things said such as, “You don’t know what they will do with that money, so you shouldn’t give it to them,” or “You shouldn’t give people money because you could be funding their drug habits.” Often, the loudest such phrase ever heard, was the clicking sound of a car lock as we drove past a man who was asking cars for money. I grew up only seeing the bad in giving, hearing horror stories of generosity. This all created in me the idea that those who ask for money are liars and thieves. However this is not true.
Although there are many who are in need due to poor judgment and actions on their parts, which are regrettable, there are many who are in such circumstances purely because we live in a fallen world. Without knowing how a person arrived at the situation where they are currently, it is very hard to distinguish between the two. However, sometimes it is not necessary to make such a distinction. We are told in scripture to care for the poor and needy. This is an all-encompassing statement. We are called to care for all the needy. We are not told to only help those who do not have a drug problem, nor are we told that those who may use our money to buy something other than what they say, are unworthy of our help. We are just told to help those who need it. This is demonstrated by Christ, who died for all.
Christ, in His death, did not discriminate between those who deserved his help and those who did not. We all needed Him and He died for all of us. Some of us have accepted His help, while others still do not. Yet, Christ still offered help to those who have not, and will not, accept His sacrifice. His blood holds the same cleansing power, and is just as freely offered, for the repentant sinner as it is to he who is unrepentant. So, too are we to be like Christ. We must not discriminate between those whom we deem as “worthy” of help, and those who are unfit for our help. We are told to help all. I will be the first to say that it is foolish to give a meth-head money a block away from his dealer; however this person is still in need, and we need to help. The fact is we cannot always tell what someone has done, nor can we tell what they may do. What we do know is that we are to help. There is something wrong with the initial thought, the initial assumption, that someone should not be helped. Regardless of who they are or what they may do with the means you use to help them, they still must be helped!
Jesus bled and died for all, those who would accept His gift and those who would squander it. He knew who would embrace His help, and who would waste it; still, He offered help to all. We need to be more like Him. We must not assume people are trying to scam us, or immediately think that they should not receive our help. We must give help to all who need it. Should we practice some discernment when helping? Yes. But, we cannot be so discerning that we never help. “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18) Christ sacrificed Himself for all; the least we can do is help those in need, regardless of who we think they are or what they will do.