Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How does a Baptized Child of God handle a poor person asking for money?

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...

To God be All the Glory


Anonymous said...

Way to go Pastor ! We do that same thing here at St. John's in Topeka Kansas for strangers that think we're a " Bank ". Our congregation gives a donation to the Topeka Rescue Mission every year at Thanksgiving.
How ever when my husband fell out of a tree and broke his back we felt just like the man by the road side that had been stripped of everything. He was in the hospital for a month we had no insurance and the bills were over a 1/2 million dollars. Our church was worth it's weight in gold, we felt guilty about receiving their charity and yet we we're in need of the love God was offering us through these dear neighbors who were pooling their efforts to help us in every way they could think of. I wish I could just tell you the extra mile St. John's went to for us. We know who our neighbors are.

Aaron Koch said...

As a baptized Christian freed to serve I think we all struggle with this delema. I believe there is basically no way to know truly if someone is scamming you or really needs help. There are so many non-profit groups and organiztions that help people in need as well.
Last year I was in Little Rock, AR and I was approached by two people who asked for money. The first was on the run from the Mexican mofia who had infiltrated a Californain prison where he was serving time. (I truly question his story, or his sanity) The other gave me his personal testimony (after I told him I was Christian) and told me he was content with his life. He had a change of clothes, lived at the homeless shelter and lived off his disability, donating blood plamsa and (his words) whatever the Lord provided. I gave money to both men. The second, named Richard, tried to convince me that he was not going to spend the money on drugs or alcohol. I told him it did not matter.
My question then is...does it matter what someone does with the money I give to them if they say they are in need?

Pastor Finnern said...


What I have learned from individuals who work at Food Pantries is that churches and Christians need to start directing people to quality food pantries/resources or else the people will never learn responsibility. This was a gal who has a great love for people, but she said that we need to help them as opposed to enable.

It is still a struggle, but if you have good resources in the area, it is easier.

Anonymous said...

In line withwhat you've said, I was told by a friend at church that we should remember, " give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him for a life time. "