09 September 2009

Help – 9.9.09

Philippians 4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Psalm 37:25 I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.

Coming across that first verse in my Bible reading this morning took my mind back to an experience I had this past Sunday night (and many other times prior to that). My wife and I stopped to do a little grocery shopping on the way home from church Sunday night. As we loaded my car, a man approached us with this story:

He just moved to the area from KY for his job, which is going very well. He doesn't have a place yet, but the VA is helping him move into an apartment this Tuesday (as he points to the letters "USMC" tattooed on his arm). He's not asking for any money. He has some money. But when he went to his church and asked for help all they gave him was some bread and some peanut butter (that's all), and his wife is pregnant and about to have a baby, and he's just asking for some help with some food for them.

There was more to it, but I can't remember all of it. May I point out a couple of loopholes?

1. The alcohol on his breath told me that he had enough money for food and that he really was asking for money.

2. I might not have noticed the alcohol on his breath as quickly had he not been clutching breath mints when he approached us.

3. What's wrong with peanut butter and bread (OK, maybe he was just asking for some jelly)?

4. If he has money, why not go in the store and buy some food.

5. A "USMC" tattoo on one's arm is not sufficient proof of military service and/or VA benefits.

6. So the VA can give you a place to stay but can't come up with anything to eat?

7. Not everybody is dumb enough to believe everything they hear from every bum that approaches them in the parking lot.

There are more, but I can't remember them all.

So, at the end of his speech, he asks, sheepishly, "Can you help?" I reply with a simple "No," and proceed to return my grocery cart (or buggy, depending on where you're from) when he comes out with, "Sir, are you a Christian?" No I wear a tie on Sunday nights just for fun and have scripture on my vehicle because it makes people think I'm cool. (I realize that doesn't make you a Christian, but you understand what he's asking.) His next brilliant question, "What does the Bible say?"

OK, the right answer would have been Romans 3:23 or 1 Timothy 1:15 or Amos 4:12 or Acts 16:31 or Acts 17:30 or John 3:16 or something. But instead I came back with a VERY gracious, "You tell me," and he gave me one of the 3 references he had memorized for such occasions – Matthew 22:36-37 – which I quoted as if to say, "And…" So he got in his truck and left, and I got in my car and left.

I used to feel really bad after these kind of conversations. In fact, I've been suckered 3 times into giving people gas (never given anybody money). I'm convinced one might have been legitimate; one was definitely a fraud; and the other was highly doubtful. But I'm a soft-hearted guy. OK, I was a soft-hearted guy. Now I just get mad. I think there are 2 main reasons I get mad. One, I get mad at myself for still kind of feeling bad about not helping the guy out. And two, I get mad because I think of all the things I should have said after the fact – as if one intelligent statement is going to cure a bum of his stupidity.

So why write all of this? One, I'm venting. Two, I need a good answer to give people. When people come to the church looking for handouts (sob-story in tow), I usually ask them what their church said when they went there and explain from 1 John 3:17 how we help those in our congregation who have needs from time to time but are not scripturally commanded to extend those privileges to those outside our fellowship. (Either that, or refer them to one of the larger churches in town.)

But I need to be ready (1 Peter 3:15) for these parking lot encounters. I'm purposing to somehow use the Bible in each situation. (When I did help with gas, at least I was able to give the gospel and invitations to church.) The verses at the top are a couple thoughts, but I'm also looking for your ideas. What I really ought to do/want to do is find a good way of turning these encounters into witnessing opportunities. Also, I'd like to figure out a good way to try to reason with these people without sounding smart or sarcastic. Help! And thanks.

10 comments:

  1. I know a man in Georgia that has an interesting approach. When he goes to Atlanta he carries peanuts in his pocket. When someone asks him to help him get some food he offers them the peanuts. If they accept then he at least knows they really want food, and then he'll give them a couple dollars or whatever. II Thessalonians 3:10, I Thessalonians 5:18 are verses that I need to keep in mind. I'm a softy too brother. Praise the Lord for you! Chad

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  2. Thanks! Similar situation in Orlando, where we street preach on Saturday nights. The common request is for some money to get into a rescue mission. My common reply is, "I'm here 'til 11:00. Come back at 10:30, and I'll walk you down to the mission." I've yet to have anybody show back up.

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  3. Sir
    I must say that I am somewhat angry. I read your staement here today of your dealing with a so-called "bum". Christian people are very quick to call people that ask for help "bums'. But they are they same ones who go "begging" to God for help, food, jobs etc. I think your comments should include Christians who are begging bums every day. If you do not consider yourself in that classification, then what are you doing on your knees my friends. I am an old man, without any hope, and I have never had one Christian "begging bum" ever cared for me. You should of at least tried to help the man out, he may of been an angel who wanted to wanted to see if you really were a Christian or just someone occupying a seat in a church building. Think about it please!

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  4. One- have you ever thought that maybe that little part of you that still feels bad about not helping people who approach you is the Holy Spirit? I don't know you, so I don't presume to know where you are with God, this is just what I've perceived from this post. I'm not saying that it is appropriate in every situation to give money, but you seem really angry about someone even approaching you for help...not exactly a Biblical principle.

    Two- A good way to turn these interactions into opportunities to share the gospel is just to be kind without complaint. Even if you don't have a tract on hand or have the opportunity to lay out the gospel word for word, being a Christian who shows love goes a long way to enticing someone to go to church.

    Even if it's not right away or your church that they end up at, it's still bringing them a step closer to God. Or at the very least, not deterring them from coming closer. Myself (even having a relationship with God) and many of my peers have been deterred from Christianity at one time or another (I've come back) because of Christians who do not act like Christ.

    also, one reason why no one has taken up your offer for help if they come back at 10:30 is that missions fill up fast. If they were to wait that long, they probably wouldn't get in.

    That being said, I found this blog because I was given a tract by someone at your church. I was planning on visiting this Sunday...I still am, but I'm a little wary. I hope your entire congregation is not quite so angry about doing what God commanded us to do- we should be thrilled that God loves us enough to claim us as His children & allow us to be vessels of His love: Matthew 22:34-40, 1 Peter 4:10, James 1:27, Colossians 3:12-14

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  5. To the gentleman that left the 3rd comment: Praise the Lord for your love for those in need. I also appreciate the reference to prayer. We would all be beggars without our precious Saviour. However sir, I do not think that an angel would take the Word of God out of context or be sent by God to trap a Christian. You're absolutely right though; we should be concerned for the lost. In regards to the fact that you're angry: let all anger...be removed with all malice.

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  6. David, I appreciate your willingness to publicly share this story and your struggles. It would be so much easier not to and avoid the criticism. We are all guilty of not responding properly in every situation with our words or actions. I agree with your goal of using these opportunities to witness. The way I see it the Gospel is priceless and I will trust the Holy Spirit to do His work on the individual and a couple of bucks to keep a persons attention while I preach is worth it. I am not going to worry about what he will do with the small sum of money I give him. I base my thoughts on the scripture about God sending rain on the just and unjust and making the sun to rise on the evil and the good, because it makes me realize that people misuse the blessings God is pouring out and yet He continues to pour it out. His goodness brings us to repentance. To one degree or another we are all guilty of not properly using the handouts The Lord gives us daily.
    I appreciate your devotion to study and teaching of the Bible and have been very blessed by your blogs. It is evident that you are still a softy and I hope you never change. Knowing your character it is clear of your intent and theme of your blog and to redirect this intent to one of derogatory language is unfortunate.
    Regarding “Anonymous” he needs to understand that the word “Bum” is really just 21st century slang for beggar. It may sound harsh but compared to the word God uses (evil) it is actually mild. And if he has "no hope" he really needs to meet Jesus, he will give you REAL HOPE and will never let you down even when bums like us do.

    Brother Tino.

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  7. David, I appreciate your willingness to publicly share this story and your struggles. It would be so much easier not to and avoid the criticism. We are all guilty of not responding properly in every situation with our words or actions. I agree with your goal of using these opportunities to witness. The way I see it the Gospel is priceless and I will trust the Holy Spirit to do His work on the individual and a couple of bucks to keep a persons attention while I preach is worth it. I am not going to worry about what he will do with the small sum of money I give him. I base my thoughts on the scripture about God sending rain on the just and unjust and making the sun to rise on the evil and the good, because it makes me realize that people misuse the blessings God is pouring out and yet He continues to pour it out. His goodness brings us to repentance. To one degree or another we are all guilty of not properly using the handouts The Lord gives us daily.
    I appreciate your devotion to study and teaching of the Bible and have been very blessed by your blogs. It is evident that you are still a softy and I hope you never change. Knowing your character it is clear of your intent and theme of your blog and to redirect this intent to one of derogatory language is unfortunate.
    Regarding “Anonymous” he needs to understand that the word “Bum” is really just 21st century slang for beggar. It may sound harsh but compared to the word God uses (evil) it is actually mild. And if he has "no hope" he really needs to meet Jesus, he will give you REAL HOPE and will never let you down even when bums like us do.

    Brother Tino.

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  8. 1. Due to the number and nature of the comments left in response to this post, I read back over what I had written and apologize – not necessarily for the content – but for the tone of the post.

    2. Thanks for your feedback. My intention was to ask for help so that I can better handle these situations as a BIBLICAL CHRISTIAN ought.

    3. Having been soundly rebuked for my attitude, I thank those who offered tips related to giving the gospel in these situations. Please keep them coming. The word of God is what we ALL need. I want to be used by God to give His word to others. I understand in order to do so effectively in a way that pleases God, I must have the right attitude. But just having the right attitude isn’t enough. I must have the right attitude AND deliver the right message. Came across a verse that helped me last night. 2 Timothy 2:24-25 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;

    4. Having read back over the various comments, I want to say that I am definitely not opposed to helping somebody out who has a LEGITIMATE need. The anger stems from the hypocrisy of trying to use the Bible to guilt a Christian out of some money for beer (or for food b/c the food money was spent on beer).

    5. In regards to prayer, I am glad I am given an invitation (actually, a command) by my heavenly Father to let my requests be made known to Him (Philippians 4:6); to cast my care upon Him (1 Peter 5:7); to lay all my desire before Him (Psalm 38:9); to come to His throne for mercy and grace in my time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). Praise the Lord! However, I don’t get what I ask for just b/c I ask for it. God promises to answer – in accordance with His will – the prayers of those who OBEY His word (1 John 3:22).

    6. Pray for me. I want to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:18). I hope you do, too.

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  9. Without the Holy Spirit indwelling, I actually expect a lost person to lie and cheat and steal so it comes as no surprise when they try and use our Christianity as a tool for their gain. It is not right but it should be expected. One method I have used to reason with unsaved beggars ( I qualify this because not all beggars are unsaved. ) is to let them know that being cold, hungry, filthy, homeless, alone, etc. is a bad state to be in and I plead with them to believe that not being forgiven by The Lord and dieing in their sin will result in a worse state. Many people who are down and out sometimes wish for death to remove them from the hardships of this life because they think things will be better once they die, & I explain as clearly and as
    compassionately as I can that without Jesus it will actually be worse.
    This might make the lightbulb come on.

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  10. Thanks, Bro. Tino - Great approach!

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