When it comes to giving, where do you draw the line? - 40acts in ACTS

By Catherine Durant | 17 May 2017 | Comments (4)

40acts in ACTS - a blog from Stewardship

Recently I was at a Bible study where the group was discussing homelessness.

One lady told how she was approached by a guy on the street for money, but instead she asked what she could get him to drink.

She was slightly taken aback when he replied specifically, “A caramel macchiato.”

After regaining composure, she willingly got it for him.  A discussion then arose in the group about the importance of actually engaging with people and asking what they would like instead of making assumptions.

Another member asked worriedly, “But what if they ask you for a 5 course meal?”

This got me thinking…  Clearly that kind of bold request is extremely implausible, but if it did happen, would I do it?  If I had the ability, and it wouldn’t send me into the red, then I could…but would I? 


Acts 3:2-8:

Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!”  So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 

(Click here to read the whole chapter)

The scenario that Peter and John faced in this passage of Acts is a familiar one. Working in London, I am filled with a sense of conflicted guilt when I see people begging on the street. It sounds like the man in Acts 3 was barely looking at them, and I’m sometimes faced with the same: a mumbled appeal, barely looking up or hoping that someone might actually respond.

But often, it’s still a direct question, “Can you spare any change?” “Can you help me?” and the thought that consistently runs through my mind is what Jesus says in Luke 6:30; ‘Give to everyone who asks you’.

And when I apologise and truthfully say I don’t have any cash on me, I am aware that I am disobeying.  Yes, I may not carry cash, but there’s probably a cash point around the corner.  I may have heeded the warnings about not giving out money to people on the street, but there is so much else that I could give.

In this passage, Peter tells the man that he has no silver or gold.  Unlike me with my online bank account, this probably didn’t just mean that he was not carrying money at that time. We know that the early church was in the habit of sharing all they had with each other, so it’s likely that he didn’t have any money at all to his name.  Instead, Peter gives the man something far more precious.

999 times out of a thousand, I feel like I fail.  The needs are just too great.  What difference can I really make?  Peter and John however, pointed the man to Jesus, and not only him but those nearby, taking the opportunity to preach the good news about Jesus (3:12-26) and many came to faith. 

I may not feel bold enough to pray in the same way Peter did, but I could be bold enough to offer prayer.  My fear is not that I would risk jail like Peter and John did (4:3), but only that my comfort would be put out or I might offend someone.

Of course we are not inexhaustible and there are times when we can’t stop because appointments have to be kept on time and lines have to be drawn. I’m just sure that I often draw the line far sooner than is necessary.  I might sometimes pass three homeless people on my way in to work; surely it’s not practical to stop every day for each of them?

But in my heart of hearts I know what I could do…

I could get up earlier in order to have time to speak to all those people or offer a coffee.

I could not forget to mention Jesus and ensure that he gets the glory, not me.

The fact I have a paying job at all makes me rich in comparison to someone who is unemployed and homeless, but even during times when I haven’t had one, I still have something far greater to share. 

But am I willing to do it?


MONTHLY CHALLENGE TRAFFIC LIGHTS

 GREEN:

Perhaps you live somewhere where homelessness or begging isn’t an obvious issue, or maybe you struggle to get out.  Research a local food bank or homelessness charity today, and donate a fiver to them.

 

AMBER TRAFFIC LIGHT AMBER:

Be prepared. If you’re walking into a city or somewhere where you know you might meet someone homeless, take some spare change with you to buy an extra coffee or a sandwich, or allow an extra fifteen minutes so that you can sit and have a chat with them.

 

 RED:

Volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen, and consider spending two nights per month there on a regular basis. Alternatively, if that’s something you already do, offer to take a homeless person to get some food with you. Think safety first, and be aware of their needs too – they might feel uncomfortable in crowded spaces, for example.  Take time to chat and get to know them over a meal.


 

Catherine works in Content (which means mainly writing and editing) for Stewardship. She is happiest when making new friends or catching up with old ones, loves art in all its forms and anything French, especially cheese.

comments:

Ron Nicholson

May 17, 2017 9:26 PM
Very helpful I can identify exactly with how you feel. perhaps the word is to always be ready to give an answer for the hope we have in Jesus and this might be by listening, giving, caring and sharing our good news. Salvation, a hope, having Jesus as our shepherd and not lacking anything good. I'll try more to be ready next time I'm in my local town.

Gail

May 18, 2017 4:45 PM
Thank you Catherine-40Acts, I found this challenging but also helpful. I live where there aren't many homeless folks around so this gives me a deeper understanding of what is happening out there and how I can play my part. Blessings and thank you again.

Christopher Cobbold

May 18, 2017 8:50 PM
Peter and John had something that by and large we don't have. They sort of knew this man - they will have seen him day in day out over many weeks as they went to the Temple to worship, and they will have known folk who had known this guy for many years, since every day he was there. Maybe our challenge is take the risky step of developing relationship with particular people on the edge; a deeper commitment than the little act of generosity, where perhaps we may see the Lord work miracles of restoration.

Sylvia Milner

May 19, 2017 12:20 PM
I share the same sentiments! I feel so sorry for homeless people on the streets (why usually more men than women?) but if I am short on time and give cash, if it was immediately spent on alcohol, what good is that? It is merely possibly reinforcing the problem. Buying something like a cup of coffee/sandwich is a better option.

At work we had a homeless person who frequently dossed down in a doorway opposite our office and next to the Registry Office. Our security guard had to move him on as it was Council property. Apparently the gentleman was well spoken but the guard felt he could become aggressive.

I often think that 'there but for the grace of God' I could be and for this reason feel I want to help; perhaps giving to a Christian homelessness charity or the Salvation Army which I do. I do support buskers but as an over 65 year old woman feel a little intimidated by the men sitting on the pavements.

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