Wherever you find yourself reading this—maybe you are holding a hot dog under the fireworks—I wonder if you worry about your next meal. Not just a food picture worthy of the gram… I am asking if you ever wonder what you would do if you had to beg for food?
This Sunday I walked into my local Publix like any other day. I had my list of organic products ready to check off. Meal prep was on the mind, and I was excited about trying out some new veggie recipes from the Minimalist Baker. Little did I know I’d find a family of five outside the door begging for food.
My first reaction was to pick up my pace and avoid eye contact. But as I grabbed the cart (that I would soon fill with overpriced grocery products) I was moved to go back to the family. They asked for items like milk, bread, cereal and chocolate chip cookies for the little girls. All reasonable, and the least I could do.
Doubt Kicks In
Pretty soon, though, my suspicions kicked in and I started thinking that they would probably return whatever I bought them, and use the money however they pleased. I was so close to forgetting the whole thing and just going by my business. After all, it is so easy to ignore the need when we can reason ourselves out of it.
When I was done shopping, one of the Publix employees helped me with the bags to my car. He watched as I handed the woman and her little girls the bags of food. Then as we walked to the car he told me how they survive by traveling from one Publix to the next, asking for food or money. He told me how they park a van far off and walk to the door. Reason after reason why we shouldn’t trust giving to those in need.
When We Judge
Even if he was right, even if they are taking advantage of people, in the back of my mind I believed that it wasn’t up to me to determine that. God’s word tells us to give to the one who begs from you (Matthew 5:42). His teachings are not to figure out if they are genuinely in need. It’s not our job to judge their circumstances and decide who is worthy of our handout.
The bible also teaches us to give as you have decided in your heart, and not from obligation (2 Corinthians 9:7). If you are struggling to pay your own bills, then it might not be wise to give away money or goods. Get some help with your own finances (see Dave Ramsey) and do good to share what you have. Not only does this please God, but also our sacrifice to give to others will bring back a satisfaction to our own soul.
There is also great promise to those who are generous with what they are given. Proverbs 19:17 states that whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed. And again another promise in Proverbs 11:25 repeats that whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.
How marvelous that our God does not forsake us even in this small act. He knows your heart and your true intentions. Which is why I believe this is a personal decision. Some people might find it easy to hand off a few dollars and sleep well at night. But does that do more harm than good? Each of us should make that decision based on the conviction God has put in our hearts.
What I Learned
Personally, I’ve stopped giving money. If someone on the street is asking for food, then I rather buy him or her a meal. In my heart, that meets their need more than a few dollars will in a short moment. It is so important to be intentional, so if you struggle with this, then be prepared for the next time someone begs from you. I recommend carrying a few nonperishable items in your car, or even toiletries.
At the end of the day, it is your decision. And the simple truth from Matthew 7:12, which states, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.”