Monday, March 20, 2017

Giving to the Poor

The real problem with giving to the poor is not a lack of money, but our need to be sure that the people do whom we give are really poor.  We want to make sure they are deserving of our generosity.  We fear someone may be taking advantage of us, our willingness to give.  It has happened and we do not want it to happen again.  We would rather give our gifts and kindness to someone who is really in need and not to someone who is little more than a modern day huckster.  So, what often happens is nothing.  We give nothing.

The real problem; therefore, with giving to the poor is not the poor, but us.  Me and you.  Our need not to be taken advantage of is the problem.  One of the things that often happened when I was keeping regular hours as a pastor was folks in all sorts of trouble coming by the church office expecting a handout of some kind.  I learned over the years that many were not really in need.  I learned that showing up for what they could get from the church was a way of life for some.  But, there were also some who had genuine needs.  I had to decide early on if my fear of someone taking advantage of the church and its pastor was going to keep me from helping someone who was really in trouble.  Adopting a non-helping rule meant being careless with those in need of compassion and such was not a place I saw Jesus taking any of us who would follow after Him.

Of course, another problem with our giving to the poor has to do with the way those of us who are affluent allow ourselves to live in a comfortable bubble where anyone who wants to do better can do better.  Even though such is not always true, we have learned to live with this attitude which keeps us away from giving and helping.  Once again, the problem is not with the poor, but me and you.  Maybe this Lenten focus on almsgiving is designed to help us see some things about ourselves and the way we relate to a world in need all around us. 

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