The archeological dig at Shiloh lies about twenty miles north of Jerusalem. It was in Shiloh that the people of Israel established a religious capitol as they entered the Promised Land. Shiloh was the home of the “Tent of Meeting” that was created from the specifications God gave Moses. Contrary to the mental image of a “tent,” the Tent of Meeting was a temple, an elaborate sanctuary complex that held the Ark of the Covenant. It was in that compound that Eli served for forty years as a high priest, prophet, and judge.
One evening, Eli was sitting in the judgment seat beside the doorpost of the temple, (I Samuel 1:9). Near the doorway, a woman knelt and wept bitterly. Her lips moved, but she trembled and spoke only in her heart. Eli had seen this sort of thing before and as Judge, he would have none of it. He spoke sharply,
“How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you.” (I Samuel 1:14 NASB).
Eli viewed the world around him through the eyes of his life experiences rather than with the heart of God. Just as many of us look on the homeless, Eli made very broad assumptions based on appearances. In fact, “Hannah” was a devout woman who was pouring out her heart before God. Eli recovered well; he prayed that Hannah might bear a child. Several years later, her son Samuel rose to be the last of the Judges of Israel.
The Needy Have Names
Just as Hannah was not “some drunken woman,” the poor we encounter daily have names and stories. The homeless we see may suffer from addiction, mental illness, or simply unemployment. They may have had a string of bad luck without the safety net of friends and family. They may be sick or heartbroken or stranded while returning to loved ones. And yes… some are scamming, as if a person could become wealthy begging a dollar at a time.
Homelessness isn’t a problem we will solve. Jesus said, “For you always have the poor with you.” (Matthew 26:11 NASB). But He also admonished, “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:42 NASB). The Book of Proverbs puts it this way,
“One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, And He will repay him for his good deed.” (Proverbs 19:17 NASB).
As long as we don’t know their names, we can think of them as “bums.” When we don’t know their stories, we can assume they’re drunks. It is a Scriptural Truth that our dealings with the poor are a means by which God evaluates our character. We may see a person that’s down and out, but in reality, there are spiritual assessments at play.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2 NASB).
“Jesus” is the Name of the Needy
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells of the judgment to come. This passage is by no means a parable; Jesus speaks of His throne and reveals how He will divide the nations for all eternity.
“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats;” (Matthew 25:31-32 NASB).
Jesus speaks to those sheep He has placed on His right and explains that they are to inherit a kingdom that God prepared from the foundation of the world. These sheep are blessed because they ministered to Jesus when they saw Him.
“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ ” (Matthew 25:37-40 NASB).
Here is the secret of giving to a homeless person without judgment, concern for their motives, or how they might misuse our gifts. When we give to the poor, we are giving to Jesus.It is a Scriptural Truth that our dealings with the poor are a means by which God evaluates our character. Click To Tweet
What Can We Do for Homelessness?
I am in by no means an expert regarding homelessness. Just as Eli judged Hanna, my regrettable expertise is the ability to make snap judgments based merely upon my human assumptions. The Holy Spirit continually prods me to lay aside my life experiences and see as God sees. Here are some things I’ve learned.
- I regularly support local efforts to minister to the homeless such as Soup Kitchens, Missions or the Salvation Army;
- Some people carry bottled water, a granola bar or a book of McDonald’s gift certificates;
- I give money. Do I worry how they might use the money? No, I release the money to Jesus as I give it. According to Matthew 25, when we see a homeless person, we’re looking at Jesus;
- I don’t look away. I treat them like people. I smile and speak to them. I give them something if I have it. I pray for them;
- I’m not responsible for judging them. I acknowledge that I am not able to “fix” them.
Words of caution…
- Don’t roll your window all the way down;
- Never pick up hitchhikers;
- Don’t hold up traffic. If God wants you to help them, there will be a peaceful opportunity to do so;
- Err on the side of caution. If you feel fearful, drive on and pray.
I strongly resisted writing this post. I knew the scriptures God had given, but the message seemed out of character for this blog, I was uncomfortable until I left work the day before this was posted. I walked out of my office, leaving early after what I thought was a particularly miserable afternoon. Though the timing seemed random and driven by my frustration, God answered my prayers and confirmed that the post was on-topic.
I pulled out of the parking lot and a worn-looking man crossed in front of me. I smiled and waved him on. He motioned for me to roll down the window and asked me where to find the Dollar General store. He was to meet someone there, but was lost and had walked all afternoon. I started to give him directions when he interrupted me; “Could you drop me off there?” He held rail-thin arms out from his body and said, “Mister, I ain’t got no weapons; I’m just so tired.”
I never, ever pick up hitchhikers, and I strongly advise anyone against it. Nevertheless, I couldn’t turn this man down. He hopped in, and I introduced myself. Billy was up from “St. Pete’s” to attend his mother’s funeral. I hardly had an opportunity to squeeze in an “Amen,” as he began testifying to me about Jesus. When we arrived, I reached for my wallet, knowing I had only one bill. I asked him if he had money for dinner. “No, sir,” he said; “But I almost have enough for my bus ticket home.” He told me how much he needed for the fare. Moments earlier, I’d already pressed a folded bill into his hand that just covered the amount. God ordained that we give each other the uplifted hearts we both so desperately needed.
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