There he is again. The guy at the corner holding his sign, hoping that sympathetic travelers will donate some money to his cause.
I realize that, as a pastor, I risk being vilified by my own constituency.
“Pastor, doesn’t the Bible teach us to give to the poor?”
However, as a church that launched the single largest ministry to the homeless and poor in our city, I do have a few opinions on the subject.
4 REASONS YOU SHOULD NOT GIVE MONEY TO THAT CARDBOARD SOLICITOR
1. You are usually buying a lie.
“Dishonest money brings grief to all…” (Proverbs 15:27, The Living Bible)
Pretend your 5 year old had strep throat and you jumped in the car to buy them some throat lozenges. On the way you spot someone selling low-cost throat lozenges on the corner. “These are guaranteed to relieve the burn of your poor 5 year old’s throat,” the solicitor tells you. You buy the lot! However, after your 5 year old has tried some you realize that they are only cherry candy. They didn’t help your child at all. Would you be mad? Of course you would. You’d realize that the person lied to you about the product and about the outcome. Not only were you ripped off, but your child is worse off.
Frankly, that’s the case with the cardboard toting solicitors. They all have a story to tell. They just need something to eat. They just need enough for a bus ticket. Their relative is sick and they need to get home. Their car is out of gas. They just need a little to get back on their feet. The local charities wouldn’t help. On and on the stories go. The only problem is that they’re almost never true. There is a word for when someone elicits money under false pretenses: fraud.
Why do you get mad if a car salesman rips you off but not a cardboard salesman?
2. You are usually feeding an addiction.
“Why should fools have money for an education when they refuse to learn?” (Proverbs 17:16, CEV)
Conservative statistics show that 64% of the homeless have addiction problems and some studies have placed that number as high as 90%. I realize that some homeless have made jokes about their addiction:
Addiction is no laughing matter.
If someone who you knew was suicidal asked you for a rope would you give it to them?
3. You are destroying their dignity.
“Even while we were still there with you, we gave you this rule: “He who does not work shall not eat.””
(2 Thessalonians 3:10, The Living Bible)
Every time you do something for someone that they should have done for themselves, you are destroying their dignity. Every western Christian would do well to read When Helping Hurts by Corbett & Fikkert.
Any parent knows that one of the most important lessons that we can teach our children is that they should work to earn money. Getting something without working for it breeds ingratitude, laziness and even contempt.
If you knew that giving money to a beggar actually made them feel worse about themselves, would you still do it?
Well, now you know.
4. You are postponing life-change.
“The Lord…refuses to satisfy the craving of the wicked.” (Proverbs 10:3, NLT)
Giving money to someone who is almost assuredly going to use it to continue a destructive lifestyle is not compassionate, it’s complicit. People don’t change when they see the light; they change when they feel the heat. Giving them money may make you feel good, but it almost certainly isn’t used for good. Real life change occurs when the well dries up and they begin to seek long-term solutions.
Thankfully, those solutions are out there. For example, in our city that long term solution is a ministry called HALO – Hope and Life Outreach.
HALO exists to give the poor a HAND UP, not a HAND -OUT and their ministry is doing just that! Their Journey of HOPE program is an intensive, year long program that restores dignity, equips them with life skills and gets people off the streets. I had the privilege of attending a recent graduation ceremony and I have to say it was truly moving.
If you REALLY want to help the homeless, don’t give your money to the cardboard solicitor, give it to a ministry that is working to bring hope and healing to the homeless and hurting.
What are your thoughts?