A Christian Writer’s Devotional Reflection
Beggars, Begging, and Giving to the Poor
I was driving a couple to the airport when we passed a beggar standing on a corner holding out a cardboard resume. After we had passed, the lady asked me what went through my mind when I saw a beggar standing on the corner. A brief discussion ensued as to how we should respond to street corner beggars.
I left the couple at the airport and thought about beggars all the way home. I kept asking myself, “How should I respond to street corner beggars and the down and out in general?” Then the question came to mind, “Well, how did Jesus respond to beggars, to the down and out?” Back in the office I sat down at the computer and looked up all the passages on beggars, begging, money and the like.
In brief, beggars and begging are mentioned numerous times. “The poor” are mentioned numerous times. Money and giving are mentioned as well. However, there seems to be no precedent for giving money to a street corner type beggar. We are not told that Christ or the Apostles tossed coins to beggars. On the other hand Christ and the Apostles kept a purse, and it is indicated that from their funds they gave to the poor. Also, Paul took up an offering for the poor from among the churches.
It is significant to note that Christ reached out to beggars in love and helped meet their real needs—eyesight for the blind and healing for the lame and afflicted—but again, there are no examples of His giving coins. His example tells us that a beggar is not to be despised, and implies that a better stewardship of funds would be to “give to the poor.” But what does that entail?
Well, I suppose giving to the poor would involve giving to agencies that distribute to the down and out according to their need, and/or giving directly to people according to their needs—buying a meal, buying a warm coat, paying their electric bill, and so on.
Giving money to the corner beggar is likely not the best way to help them. On the other hand, we should not withhold our hand from the poor either. After all, in the book of proverbs we read that “he who has mercy on the poor is blessed.” (Proverbs 14:21)
For further consideration, Got Questions has a good answer to this question as well.