Especially in large cities, substantial numbers of homeless people are found. The Bible makes statements such as: "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10). We are, therefore, to do good to the homeless. We also have texts such as: "He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again" (Proverbs 19:17); "Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away" (Matthew 5:42), and others. On the basis of these texts, many Christians believe that they should give money to the homeless. But what if, at the very least in the United States, giving money to homeless people who are begging actually does them harm instead of good? What if, while it might make the person giving the money feel good, it actually does not help the homeless person?
Recently at my workplace, where I am part of the Public Safety department, we had a training session on outreach to the homeless. We deal with homeless people regularly and have had a number of training sessions on how to work with them. This last session was led by the assistant district attorney for our city, someone who does a lot with the homeless in our area to help them get off the street. Near the end of the session we had time for questions, and I asked the attorney whether she thought that money given to the homeless was used for an illicit substance such as drugs or alcohol c. 90% of the time. Her response was eye-opening--my 90% figure was too low. She said that money given to the homeless is used for drugs, alcohol, or tobacco c. 100% of the time.
|Most homeless people are not as honest as this.|
She pointed out that homeless people in the United States do not lack resources for food, shelter, and other basic needs. In our area, there is a homeless outreach team that helps connect the homeless with appropriate resources. She asked when it was that we saw a homeless person who was clearly starving (ribs showing, emaciated, etc.). I have not seen homeless people like this (in the United States--in a third-world country things can be different--but even there evangelizing and planting churches so people can be born again, or, if one wants to deal only with the physical, giving Kiva loans or things of that sort, is better than random amounts of money to people begging). Why no actual starvation among the homeless? They have numbers of options to get food. Their food is provided for, even if they do not work for it or lift a finger for it, despite the Biblical statement: "if any would not work, neither should he eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
When a homeless person asks you for money and says he needs a sandwich or food, you can be nearly 100% sure that he is lying, and that he will use the money for what private charities or the government are not going to provide--drugs, alcohol, and tobacco--that is, the things that got a huge percentage of the homeless on the streets in the first place.
So, when you give a homeless person money, you are almost surely buying him heroin, cocaine, LSD, beer, pot, cigarettes, whisky, etc. Do you think that you can buy him those things for the glory of God? Do you think that buying him those things does him good and shows him compassion? Do you think you should be funding the drug trade, helping to create more corpses from overdoses, murders by cartels, and other horrible wickedness?
It is not a sufficient response to say "I am giving him the money and he is responsible before God for what he does with it." Yes, he is responsible before God, but why do you get to be a fool here and deceive yourself about what is happening? If--God forbid--your son was lying to you and was buying drugs with money you gave him, would you keep buying him drugs and believing his lies? Would that be loving him? Should you not love the homeless person as yourself, and not fund his drug habit and drunkenness, and both harm him physically and contribute to his eternal damnation as a drunkard and a drug abuser (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Revelation 21:8, Greek pharmakeia includes drug abuse)?
So what should you do instead of giving him money?
What I do is keep the address and phone number of the city rescue mission that preaches the gospel on my phone. If you have more than one option, you can pick the most conservative option that is available. You can then tell the homeless person where this place is and how to get there, telling him he will have both his physical and spiritual needs met there. You can also preach the gospel to him. You can give him a ride to church, while being wise as serpents and harmless as doves in doing so. You could help him find a job--if he wants one. Find out what resources are available to help the homeless in your area--if there is a particular number they can call to get connected with people that can help with the drug abuse, housing, food, etc., you can give him that number and direct him to these resources. By giving him the gospel and pointing him to a rescue mission, while refusing to give him money, you are showing him much more love than if you give him money.
Do not give money to the homeless. You are buying them drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. You are not loving them, but hating them, when you give them money. Instead, preach the gospel to them, the gospel that can deliver them from their sin when they repent and trust in Jesus Christ, and point them to as conservative a rescue mission as there is in your area. That is showing the homeless true love.
If you do not like the facts I mentioned in this post, you can, if you want, say that I wrote it because I have no compassion and just want to keep my spare change. You can attack me and keep giving the homeless money. If that is what you do, though, be fully aware that you are buying them drugs and other wicked things, and what you are doing is about making you feel good--it is not about helping them.