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Gary Hoag, the Generosity Monk; Andy Bales, the chief executive of Union Rescue Mission; and Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action, offer their views on whether Christians should always give money to street people who ask for it.

Give to Street People? Freely

Gary Hoag, the Generosity Monk

Jesus ministered to social outcasts and the undeserving on numerous occasions, so why don't we? Three possible hang-ups to serving street people have troubled Christians through the centuries.

First, we judge them.

We judge whether or not they are worthy of assistance and what they will do with our aid. Consider this illustration, from C. S. Lewis:

One day, Lewis and a friend were walking down the road and came upon a street person who reached out to them for help. While his friend kept walking, Lewis stopped and proceeded to empty his wallet. When they resumed their journey, his friend asked, "What are you doing giving him your money like that? Don't you know he's just going to go squander all that on ale?" Lewis paused and replied, "That's all I was going to do with it."

Why stop judging those in need? John the Almsgiver (A.D. 550-616) offers an answer. When a person who was not really in need applied for alms and was detected by those administering care, John merely said, "Give unto him; he may be our Lord in disguise."

Second, we hesitate to give freely to those who ask because we fear it may leave us as givers without resources.

I believe many followers of Jesus lack faith to believe that if we empty ourselves of the resources God has provided us, he will fill our cups again.

Paul reminds us, "Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest ...

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In the Magazine

January 2011

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