Should I Help That Beggar?


It’s a discussion that goes on all the time and Facebook comments run rampant with the best solution on how to decide whether or not to help out that beggar or homeless person or man with the cardboard sign or the lady with the sad family story.

We’ve all heard it before.

Veteran with no money. Need job.

Single mom of 3 kids. No money. Please help.

Homeless and hungry.

Need money and food.

Will work for food.

Need cash for weed.

Hey, at least he was honest.

And maybe they all are. But how do you know? How can you be sure that they actually need help?

And then the discussion explodes.

We create the list. Here’s what you need to prove in order to get my help. As long as you’re legitimately needy, perfectly helpless, have lived a perfect life in destitution, haven’t taken advantage of anyone, aren’t doing anything illegal, and are totally down and out (and not of your own doing, of course), then…maybe then I can help.

As long as you have the most selfless intentions, then, then alone, will I give you help since now my sense of justice is fulfilled.

Because I’m the final judge of whether or not you deserve goodness. I mean, why in the world would anyone help someone who didn’t even deserve it? If I’m going to give you something for free then you must allow me to have the totally selfless satisfaction that I am a real do-gooder for the betterment of society.

Ok. Let’s stop.

Can we please remove the totally fake mask covering this whole discussion? And this is the very mask I’ve gone to grips with in my own life and heart. Why don’t we just verbalize what’s really going on in our heads? It’s then we realize how judgmental it can be.

The proof of love and pure goodness is how we do love and do good to the poor and destitute when they least deserve it. Because one day I have to realize that I am one of those least deserved. That what separates me from them is one series of unfortunate events, or perhaps a slow series of bad decisions. Just as I have the same potential to be in their state, so they have the potential to be in mine. And as the one with the stronger hold on life, it’s my responsibility to care for the poor.

It’s not Salvation Army’s responsibility.

It’s not the government’s.

It’s not the missionary church’s.

It’s yours. It’s mine. The future and health of our cities and neighborhoods are under our ownership. Do you believe this? Do I?

I know, there are so many hard questions around this topic.

I can’t help everybody. Who do I help?

I get this. I’m single, I’m a woman, I don’t have much money, I don’t have many resources. None of those, however, are limitations. It’s just how I have to think about my approach to helping. So for me, it’s simply been the choice to love the one in front of you. Be intentional about it and be prepared. Don’t drive to the homeless section of town when you haven’t reached out to your coworker who you know struggles as a single-mom and is constantly stressed about making ends meet. Start with that person. And walk into the opportunities that follow.

So you’re saying that every person that asks me for money, food, etc… I should give to them, just like that?

Great question. How about this: we instead initiate to ask the needy and poor how we can help them. Novel! You know what this does? It gives us a sense of purpose and intentionality. We can now plan. We can put it in our budget and focus. It also makes things clear so we can say no to certain things and yes to the ones we want to focus on. It’s ok to say no. But do it because you already know where your help is going, not because of pure judgement.

I feel guilty because I have this sense of compassion for everyone I see that needs help and it’s overwhelming! Maybe I should just stifle that feeling?

As a human, this should be natural and normal. Be so careful of squelching compassion because soon you will be totally empty. We are all built with an innate sense of compassion, some cultures nurturing it more than others. We also all have a sense of goodness when we give. Again, though, the more you live in selfishness, and some in real evil, the more this will be silenced altogether. So it’s ok to hurt for those you can’t do anything about. But what you can do, do well and with your whole heart.

For children of God and those in relationship with Jesus, it’s such a real, (super)natural reaction, because once we have chosen God and live in the reality of the wonderful life He has so graciously gifted us, we see and love others through His eyes of love. And He loves the world best and the most of all. He’s pretty awesome at love.

Giving isn’t my gift.

If you have the gift of life, you have the gift of giving. You have something to offer. It will look different from me and from the person next to you. But we all have the responsibility to help those that are weaker than us, for the vulnerable. Your gift might not be money, but it may be time, or an open house, or that extra bike, or homemade Pinterest caramel brownies. Not only is it God’s loving command (there’s so much happiness and joy in it!) but it takes us to a deeper level of relationship with him. His nature is giving to those that are most undeserving, like you and I. He chose us in our worst state! Does this not inspire to give and love others into the kingdom??

But I might be taken advantage of.

I’ve struggled through this on so many levels. I’ve heard this on blog posts, Facebook comments, Sunday school lessons, coffee conversations, and all from people with good intentions. This guy asked me for money for food and then I realized he was a druggie, so I said no. Whew, almost enabled someone!

Do you have any idea what just happened? Someone who clearly has major problems asks you for something superficial, and based off the knowledge of deeper problems he has, you choose to reject helping him with the surface issue while totally ignoring the huge, major issue that you’ve already discovered! Perhaps he needs someone to ask him if he would like someone to walk with him to a local rehab center. Perhaps she needs someone to speak truth into her life of what she was created to be, of how much she is loved, by you and God. Perhaps he needs a weekly friend to stop by and talk for 15 minutes, and when he’s ready to give up his life for a better one, you will be he one he goes to.

Maybe we need to apply our intelligence and knowledge and lead them to a path of what they truly need. It creates purpose and hope. Walking away is easy, but it never gives hope. And giving hope is often really awkward and super uncomfortable. But it’s the path to freedom.

We settle with way too little. We desperately cling to our sense of justice and fear of being taken advantage of.

How big is your love? How much can it take? Often, the point here is not necessarily the helping itself; it’s the times when you are betrayed and lied to and taken advantage of, and then…you could walk away totally justified. Or, you have the chance to look them in the eye and say, “I still choose to love you and forgive you and offer the best help for you.” That is when pure love and goodness is on display for the world.

And it takes radical love to change the world, your city, your neighborhood.

And I am not saying this from a narrow positive opportunist viewpoint, totally naive to the realities of misuse. I’ve been the recipient of lies and betrayal in very deep ways. In life, family, friendships, work, dating relationships. And this isn’t just “the past.” Recently I lived under the lies and manipulation of a guy I was in a relationship with, and lived with the subsequent emotional trauma of betrayal.

I get it. It doesn’t feel good. The natural response is to run, to protect yourself from any other hurt in the future, to assume the worst of people.

This is when your love shows up. Was it all about what you could get out of it? Or was it about you choosing to live love without expectations and demands? It’s hard. You’ll mess up, get messy, be exposed to really uncomfortable situations, and have to face your own fears. It’s awkward and confusing. You yourself will have to be needy on wisdom, on God, on others to help you.

But at the end of the day you will know that you chose love. And whether it looks like a giftcard or money or buying groceries or opening up your guest room or throwing dinner parties to the least of these or offering your business expertise or even just a word of encouragement and a prayer, it is all never in vain.

Watch not just your life open up, but your heart. Watch your neighborhood change, your city catch the fever. As William Wilborforce, leader of societal reform in England and the end of international slave trade, said,

Let’s make goodness fashionable.

I get it. I finally get it.

I get it. November 18, 2011

That was the title to the blog post I wrote exactly 1 year ago. God had just given me a really clear revelation about purpose, specifically about my purpose here in Greenville.

However, the blog post mysteriously never got posted.

wh-what happened?! Did I have a ditz moment and simply forget to press the Publish button?

eh, no. No, actually I had a lot of fear. I was afraid that God really was doing what I thought He was doing, that he had answered my prayers and revealed my direction.

I wasn’t ready to commit to Greenville. My heart was not prepared to truly say, “This is my city and these are my people.” I thought the Kingdom was really happening somewhere else, and to publish this post would’ve held me accountable to other people. as if God didn’t already know. I was arrogant, prideful, and fearful. So typical. It’s as if I look for God, ask God for God, yet when he shows up, I take what I want and brush the rest aside. Um, why does he want me again? He’s pretty good and gracious. that’s why.

It wasn’t until August 25 this year that I heard God speak to me again about Greenville, my city. But that’s a story for another time.

So this was one of those I get it!” moments that in all reality took a lot longer to “get” than it should have. but whatever.


Illumination happened today. It was a time where in a single moment the oddly shaped erratic puzzle pieces of one’s life come together in this beautiful, sensible design.

The 5 months between graduation and moving to Greenville to start a new job were probably the most seemingly unstable days of my life, bar nun: 14 homes, 9 churches, 4 countries, 6 cultures, 15 beds, 7 ministry offers, thousands of dollars. In the end, I was still broke, jobless, homeless, and directionless, without a clue of where in the world I was supposed to be. That, unfortunately, was not part of the plan.

I couldn’t muster up in my mind what would practically be my next steps in life. Nothing, and I mean nothing, was happening. Even in my desires. And it was frustrating because I know I am to live my life on purpose. Vita by Design, right? I honestly felt at one point that the fact that I had a blog with this title was a joke. Nothing seemed purposeful. I didn’t know what to do, so…do I just not move?

Well, I did a whole bunch of not moving for what seemed like an unbearable amount of time.

One September Monday evening, while in Fort Wayne Indiana, out of nowhere a thought jumped into my mind: I need to go back to Greenville.

Interesting. So this new thought spurred me to email Dan, my friend and former shepherding group leader, if he knew of anyone in town that may be hiring since I was thinking about moving back to Greenville, though I really didn’t know why. It was just an inclination (hint hint…HOLY SPIRIT!).

The next day, Tuesday, Dan “happened” to be meeting with the owner of the only company that I had interviewed with in downtown Greenville back before graduation. So Wednesday morning Dan called me to tell me that the owner said that he needed to hire someone soon—come to find out, very soon. I called the owner that hour and talked the situation over. By 4:00 I had accepted the job and was due to start work on Monday morning. 5 days later.

I probably don’t need to express this, but I was obviously rejoicing over this ridiculously quick job provision. How amazing, right? Isn’t that a cool story?

God had bigger plans.

God does not move people to jobs. He moves them to strategic Kingdom opportunites. Jobs are just so this-world.

Though it’s a company with a fantastic reputation in the Upstate, the location is probably one of the worst in Greenville. It is sketchy with an extra healthy dose of sketch.

The first day of work my boss took me to lunch and mentioned as we drove out of the parking lot, “Don’t walk around over here. This is a crack corner.” And where there’s drugs, there’s violence. Not gonna lie—I was often frightened. My elder at church, who is a cop, had many stories to share about that corner. Chases, busts—one time he caught this guy from America’s Most Wanted on our corner.

This week 2 guys were standing right outside our front steps doing a drug deal.  In broad daylight. Twice in the past month there were huge fires right across the street behind our building that were started by the homeless. I heard gun shots one morning recently.

I wouldn’t normally tell people all this. But I just wanted to let you know that I had a pretty scary view of the area and tried to be as risk-free as possible.

Yet every day I drove by these people I saw their broken lives and remembered the women I lived with this summer in Betel. That was the potential for these lives too. Yet who am I?

I’ve been reading and dissecting the Beautitudes and just read “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” I had to really talk with God about this because I desire to show mercy to these people, which involves building relationships. Yet at the same time I understand the implications, and for a single girl to make any relational advances in a predominantly male culture is obviously scary. I needed help and direction.

The very next day on the way to work the main road was blocked so I had to take my own detour to get to work. Divine intervention? I drove through side streets near my work and saw what I’d never seen before in this town. This exists in Greenville? Broken homes, broken lives. Wow. But, where did I fit in with this?

I went to a party last night and afterwards there was tons of extra food. I saw the huge plate of croissant sandwiches and the thought came that maybe I could take them to the homeless nearby. I texted a friend that does outreach on this side of town to see if she would take me during our lunch hour.

She came by the office the next day and we got in my car. We turned left out of the parking lot and had barely passed our building when she said to turn left down a gravel road. Wait, this close? It’s basically right behind our building.
We parked and walked underneath the bridge. There was a fire pit where three people were standing around stoking the fire. Two people drove in behind us on a moped. To the left there were several tents all along the ground, and at the top the embankment was a row of tents with slits in the sides to come in and out. A single picnic table was in front of us, which is where we set the food. We talked with the few people there.

I knew.

I knew in that moment why I was brought to this job and back to Greenville. Since last January God had been tearing my heart up over the ones that his heart breaks over. For the broken people. He led me to Betel. An amazing, unique experience. I knew my life was forever changed, yet I had no idea how it would practically play out in my life. I felt this urgency that I would have to come up with something—he gave me the desire, shouldn’t I move forward with it?

He did it. All without my help, my ideas, my suggestions. Within walking distance of where I spend 1/3 of every 24 hour day, I have strategic connection with the broken outcasts of society. Today’s mission. I had prayed for ability to show mercy ministry— and He answered.

Before I asked, before I even knew to ask, he was preparing me.

Real Lives: Rodney, a trail of bitter losses

Rodney is a slightly older black man. He has tight curly hair that has sprays of white here and there. He’s typically not completely clean shaven and has white, curly hairs randomly sprouting around his chin. His left eye always seems a bit swollen and I can typically only see his right eye. Sometimes it’s a bit bloodshot.

Jaclyn had met him and then introduced us one Thursday when we were doing street outreach. She mentioned she was pretty sure he was unsaved. So for the past month or two I had made an effort to build a relationship with him, even extending the invitation to come to church with us. He’s always promised to come, but at the last moment seems to find a way to back out.

He seemed kind enough to me and was willing to converse. Over the weeks he became more and more open and I knew that some level of trust existed.

Last week he mentioned that he really needs to find another place to live because of the living conditions of the house he’s in at night. I’m not sure if he has a room or what, but I definitely always see him on the street.

So that Tuesday night I asked him about the rooming situation and let him know I was praying.

I’m not exactly sure what happened; I think I was just giving suggestions about ways to find a new place. Talk with friends, make new connections, and then of course you can pray.

He slammed his hands on the table, and slowly stood up while saying, “You know what?”

His tone was drenched with bitterness.

“You know what? I’m sick of this church thing, praying thing. I went to church all growing up. I went with my mother, and even with my grandmother, and I believed it and prayed and everything.

“And then my mother died. And then my grandmother was taken away. And just recently my neice died. All within 4 years. I couldn’t give a rats butt about life because everything I loved was taken away.

“It’s like walking down some steps and each step down you keep losing something you love. I loved them. I don’t know why this had to all happen to me.

“I mean, I believed the Gospel and everything, and always went to church, but then it’s like I lost everything. I had a good life. I had a house, car, motorcycle, a wife, children…and then my wife left me with the kids, and then I just lost everything.

“My life sucks. And you’re trying to tell me that it’s worth living? I’m sorry that I have to be so blunt but…”

“No,” I interjected. “I’m very glad you’re being transparent. I see where you’re coming from…”

“Yeah, you see where I’m coming from but you don’t agree.”

Praying for wisdom in these moments. Not easy to know what to say.

“Have you ever heard of the story of Job?”


“No, no I don’t recall…”

“It’s quite a story.” I gave a brief outline of Job’s story, and how God’s hand clearly allowed it to happen. “Rodney, God allowed that to happened because He wanted Job to know that having God is enough! He was testing him to prove if Job really did love God more than his possessions. And God restored him! He is good. Really He is.”

Rodney tilted his head. “Well, now that you say that, I think I do remember learning about that story when I was a teenager…”

“Have you heard the story of Joseph?”

Another pause. That was all I needed.

“Joseph was thrown in a pit and betrayed by his own brothers, sold into slavery, treated severely unjustly whenever he did something right, and you know what? God used him to save Egypt! Rodney, what story does God have for you, you particularly, that you are missing because you are rejecting him?”

“I don’t care. I just don’t care anymore.”

“So you don’t want hope or another life?”

“I could care less about this life, it’s just been so rotten, so out of my control…”

He went on and on. Bitter words and bottled-up anger spilling over.

At me. at the world. at God.

Our conversation was coming to an end.

“Rodney,” I pointed at him as he was walking away.” “I’m praying for you that God would show himself to you for who He really is instead of this perception you have of God that is not true.”

He cocked his head and said in sarcasm, tinged with anger, “You are a blessing and have a great night, ma’am. I will see you later.”

It’s very interesting to me that the person that had built a relationship with him through kindness and generosity was now the one that was being attacked. Maybe he felt he could be transparent. Maybe I just happened to be the next person that mentioned “praying.”

It then occurred to me– I have been reading and meditating on Matthew 10:16-24 recently, and today I read that Jesus told his disciples that a disciple is not above his teacher and therefore shouldn’t expect to be treated any differently. If Jesus was maligned and mistreated, both verbally and physically, then why should I expect anything less?

If my goal in life is the be like Jesus, then be like Jesus in all ways will I be.

Though his reaction was rather surprising to me, now that I think about it, I’m joyful. Not about his situation; I’m heartbroken over his hopelessness and very wrong perception of God.

But I’m thankful that in one small way I was able to “share in His sufferings” because that’s simply what happens when one determines to know God above all else. “That I may know him…” — sweet words.

So this story of Rodney is continuing. It’s sad, truly it is. But there is always hope– in the real Gospel. Not in a list of do’s and don’ts. But in grace, and mercy, and forgiveness, and freedom. Rememeber Rodney. Pray for God to charge into his world and turn it upside down.

And remember the real costs and joys of Paul’s words: “I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ.”

And if we aren’t experiencing sufferings and rejections…perhaps we are not as committed to knowing Christ as we should be.