Indigenous Indigence

“Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.” (Romans 14:3, emphasis mine)

Paul writes to the Christians in Rome. He continues on in the next verse with one of the most practical and pragmatic thoughts around the unadvised judging of other individuals:

“Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.”

We see people everyday as we drive by: those who have been shunned by society for doing something that was unwise in the extreme, something illegal (perhaps, who knows). They sit on the side of the road and hold a wrinkled, hand-lettered cardboard sign expressing humility and even citing the name of God—the same God that I believe in. I’m reminded of this passage from James’ letter (2:15-16):

“If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?”

Unbidden by seeing the aforementioned transient, that passage usually comes to me with the accompanying image of a lonely house (Bavarian-style architecture) on a dark street in a snowstorm. A woman leans out of the warmly-lit doorway and wishes a family well as they exit (somehow, not having had dinner) into the cold void. All around is shrouded in fog and darkness. That’s the mental image I have when I think about that passage not having seen someone to whom it would so evidently apply. It continues:

“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (James 2:17)

There are all sorts of reasons we don’t help others who clearly need it. Either the traffic was too busy and we were unable to slow to a stop do (one can always double back). Or we just didn’t get a good feeling—something that, I think, needs to be seriously overhauled in some people (a story for another time). Maybe the Holy Spirit genuinely doesn’t want us interacting with someone who needs to just suck it up and get a job and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Who knows?

“For ye have the poor always with you…” (Matthew 26:11a)

Then there’s the whole “Isn’t panhandling against the law?” thing. The act of handing someone a Clif bar outside your passenger window akin to “aiding and abeting”. I don’t know. Thing is, while Christians aren’t “above the law” in any way (seriously; see 1 Peter 2:13-15), this doesn’t mean you can’t park your car a block away—or leave your house on foot—with some sort of sustenance in tow in order to better the day (and, subsequently, the lives) of the people who can’t seem to muster up a little homeostasis. I feel that God’s heart hurts for those who are hungry, those who are ignored and maybe passively thought about as one drives by but who don’t end in being so much as an afterthought. Think about it, pray about it. Be creative.