Recently we had an individual came to church asking for money for gas. He told me story after story about how he lost his job, wife, children, and self-esteem. And after our long conversation, he boldly asks me, Can you provide me with $20 for gas so I can find a job?
What would you do? As God has called us in Baptism to go and serve our neighbor (Mark 12:31). But what do we do in this situation? We as a church will usually take a person's word that they are struggling and they have no where else to go, BUT they also could be people who go to each church in the area and ask for money for drugs or alcohol. What does one do to effectively serve their neighbor with the love of Christ?
I have struggled with this for a long time. Sometimes I gave the people money and sometimes not, either way I felt guilty! This was until recently when I visited our local food pantry, Mukwonago Food Pantry in Mukwonago, WI. I met with the director, Cindy and I asked her what we should do. She said, "NEVER, NEVER give them money!" (instantly my guilt started to wane). "More than likely they are going to hundreds of churches a year and that is how they make their money. The best thing you can do is send them to the local Food Pantry and let them do their jobs." She asked me some of their names and she knew every one of them. 99.9% of the time if someone is asking you for money, it is because that is their job. It isn't because they can not work, it is because that is their work. They go to places like churches, to the people who wear their emotions on their sleeves, and swindle pastors and others.
So what is the best way to serve your neighbor as a baptized child of God? Visit your local food pantry and ask about their services for people to find jobs. If they do, then donate your money, food, services to that food pantry. Pray for the people who work at the food pantries and if someone asks you for money, then direct them to that pantry. That is how we handle individuals here at St. John's. At the Mukwonago Food Pantry, Cindy and the volunteers will work with each individual to direct them to resources to find jobs, gas cards, food, etc and lead people to move on in life and not become dependant on the food pantry. As a church, as sinners cleansed by Christ through the waters of Baptism, we are called to serve our neighbor and what better way than to let the people who work in that field do it!
For more information on the Mukwonago Food Pantry check out their website...http://www.mukwonagofoodpantry.org.
To God be All the Glory