I’ve talked to a lot of folks who wonder how to handle all the roadside beggars. They are everywhere… literally. They’re at highway entrances and exits and strategically located outside church exits on Sunday mornings when church dismisses. How do you handle them? They hold up signs that say “Homeless. Any amount helps. God bless!”
On our motorcycle trip, Paul and I pulled into a gas station in Shelby, MT to quickly refill our tanks and catch a quick break from riding. After I fueled, I rode the bike around to the side of the building to park in the shade. As I swung around, there he was.
Paul later asked me how I’d describe Daniel. He beat me to the punch and said “gaunt”. Definitely. Daniel is somewhere in his early-20s, about 5’9″, and I imagine he barely weighed 100 lbs. soaking wet. It was obvious that he was homeless. He didn’t have a sign that said that and he didn’t need one. He had a backpack and a bedroll and that was it. He was the thinnest young man I think I’ve ever seen in the United States.
I asked him how he was doing and he said un-enthusiastically, “Okay, I guess. Well, not so good.”
I said, “Why? What’s up?”
He replied, “Oh, I’m just stuck. It sucks.”
I asked him what he meant and he told me he couldn’t hitchhike because it was too hot (it was about 92 degrees) and he was trying to meet up with some friends in a town Paul and I had passed through about 50 miles back.
I asked him when he last ate. He said it was the previous night. I asked him if he was hungry and he said he was. I asked him how he was going to eat today and he said he only had a dollar and a bag of pretzels, which he was trying to ration. I told him that he needed to eat and that he was waaaay too thin. I handed him two bottles of water and $40 and he jumped to his feet and nearly hugged me. I then pulled out a Gideons New Testament that my riding buddy Paul Prince brought with him on our trip and asked him if he knew Jesus.
He said he did but I wasn’t so sure. I told him that God knew what he was going through and hadn’t forgotten him. He said he wasn’t so sure about that. I reassured him and then prayed for him, shook his hand, but still can’t get him off my mind.
As Paul and I were going down the road, we talked about Daniel and what the best way is to handle folks like Daniel. I’m not sure there’s a “across-the-board” answer. I believe it’s case by case. There is no clear answer. All I know is that Daniel looked hungry and he WAS hungry. What he does with the money doesn’t matter to me. That’s up to God. Was Daniel healthy enough to work? Absolutely. Did he deserve my generosity? Maybe not.
But I didn’t deserve God’s generous (understatement) gift of His only Son, who purchased my salvation. I don’t deserve His continuing amazing grace in my life. How can I withhold from someone in need?
None of us are deserving, are we?