Give to Everyone Who Asks of You


There are a lot of poor people in Cincinnati.  I was there for a wedding earlier this year.  I was staying at a hotel in the city, so I wanted to be prepared in case I ran into any beggars.  I went to a drug store where they sold gift cards to fast food restaurants and bought some.  I think I got six $5 cards.

I figured they would last me the weekend, but I was wrong.  There were people everywhere asking for money.  I would walk up to them and try and engage them, and then hand them a gift card.  Nothing fancy, but it left me feeling good — like I was a true disciple of Jesus.

I ran out of gift cards, but the city didn’t run out of beggars.  Two men approached me at about midnight after the wedding.  I was almost inside the lobby of my hotel before they stopped me.  They were in their mid-fifties.  They had run out of gas.  Their car was around the corner.  They asked for money so they could go and buy gas for their car.  I told them I’d go upstairs and change out of my suit and then come back down and go with them to a gas station.

As it turns out they didn’t need gas or even own a car.  They were just looking for money.  They’d been there for a while, and they had gotten a dollar.  We went out to dinner and talked.  I learned that one of them lost his daughter to gang violence.  The other, he looked like Forest Whitacker, had diabetes.  He was divorced.  He had married an Eastern European girl and there had been conflict with her family because he’s black.

They were nice, and they were normal.  I realized how close their friendship was when the man with diabetes had to ask his friend to tie his shoelaces.  For some reason he couldn’t bend over to complete the task.

We walked back to the hotel and I asked what they needed money for.  They said that they need medical supplies and sneakers.  The one who had diabetes had gotten his shoes for free and he had to wear a couple of socks to keep the shoes from falling off.  He also said something about diabetes and blisters.  I gave them $20.  We prayed.  I went up to my hotel room.

What I found interesting is how different I felt after this interaction from when I handed out gift cards.  When I gave out $5 gift cards to Burger King, I felt godly, morally upright, and certain I was doing the right thing.  But this time I felt unsure.  I sat in my hotel room feeling like something was wrong.  I took off my clothes because I felt dirty, even violated.  I didn’t feel like I had done anything good.  I just felt used.  Even though these two guys were effusive in their gratitude and I’d like to think they told me the truth about what they planned to use the money for, I still felt gross.  I wonder why.

When Jesus encourages us to give to everyone who asks of us, he gives us a reason but it’s not so that we will feel good.  He says we should do it “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt. 5:45)  God gives us gifts whether we deserve it or not.  I wonder how he feels?  I wonder if he feels used every time his sun rises and the rain falls.


4 responses to “Give to Everyone Who Asks of You”

  1. love the missional spirit. keep it up.

  2. Fascinating post. What would you do next time you are in such a situation?

  3. I don’t think I would do anything differently. Despite the weird feeling afterward, I can’t think of any other way I’d want to handle the situation. I was just so surprised by the way I felt, and I wonder if God experiences something similar when he bestows his grace on ungrateful people.

  4. Wow, this is definitely a topic of interest to me. Then again, there are lots of topics of interest to me..! I have to find the balance between living a life, and trusting God for what I don’t know..
    I don’t believe God is calling me to just give up the rest of my life until I receive answers to all my questions. Then, I may become a beggar, b/c I would not have a job, etc. And, if nothing else, I want to “not become a financial burden to others” b/c I wouldn’t like it if someone was a financial burden to me. I also believe that work is Godly, and that if God gives you the ability and the means to work, you should work. Parable of the talents, right?
    ..but I still find myself with questions about how to live the Godliest way possible. It’s somewhat of a cheesy saying, but really, What WOULD Jesus Do?
    I believe God has given Christians His Spirit, and that the Spirit leads us into all truth, reminds us of the Word of God, convicts the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment, helps us to bear fruit (Galatians 5:22), etc. etc. I want to learn more about the baptism of the Spirit too.
    ..but we get to this topic: giving to the poor. There are so many questions that arise. There are Scriptures like “Blessed are the poor”, “give to everyone who asks you”, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat”, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name…?”, etc.
    Other stories like the beggar at the gate called Beautiful, Jesus anointed at Bethany in John 12, etc. are helpful too. And I think the following passage is helpful:
    Matthew 7:9-12
    “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. //END

    Clearly, there is a sort of logic in “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If we flip this passage on its head so to speak, let’s consider this scenario: what if the son asks for a venomous snake? Should we give it to him? Perhaps we know it to be venomous while he does not. Should we give it to him? Should a child be allowed to touch a burning stove b/c he/she “wants” to?
    My questions are rhetorical–I believe that it is not God’s desire that we jeopardize people who have no knowledge of the consequences. It seems similar to when Jesus says that it’s better to have a millstone hung on your neck and thrown into the sea than to lead a child into sin.

    But, as a sort of aside, we can expand this further..
    So then, should we legalize marijuana, abortion, etc. because people want those things “given to them”? I guess legalization is more on the level of a group, but what about on more of an individual level?

    Now I haven’t studied the Greek (i.e. original language) of Luke 6:30 indicates financial/livelihood giving. Regardless, I believe these others scenarios help us to garner understanding on the matter. And the context of Luke 6:30 helps as well.

    But like I said, I don’t purport to have a clear-cut answer most of the sorts of scenarios and whatnot that arise from this question. But I trust in Jesus that He will lead me on His straight and narrow path. Indeed, He is that path (John 14:6). Let us not become weary in our pursuit of knowledge, but let us not allow the pursuit of knowledge to cripple our very lives. We should allow the simplicity of love of God and love of others direct our lives. I believe Scripture recognizes the importance of the heart’s desires, intentions, etc. over the “good works” in and of themselves (Luke 11:42, Micah 6:8, etc.). Good works are, um, good in that they have a good effect on others, right? But in light of Matthew 7:21-23, I believe it’s possible to have good works, but not the good faith that God calls each of us to–that good faith of trusting in Him, and particularly, in Jesus, the Savior of the world. Perhaps it’s similar to those “blessed” to produce wealth for themselves but who fail to recognize/obey God (Deuteronomy 8:17). Psalm 127:1 comes to mind:
    Unless the LORD builds the house,
    its builders labor in vain.
    Unless the LORD watches over the city,
    the watchmen stand guard in vain.

    Now perhaps there are those who, at least on some level, appreciate goodness, but they have not come to know (at least in fullness) the truth of God as revealed in Jesus. I believe Jesus calls us to those people, saying that the harvest is plentiful. Its seems to me that some (like perhaps Cornelius in Acts 10) may not have come into the full knowledge of who Jesus is, but they still have good works—works that God Himself takes note of. So I don’t believe that just because someone doesn’t have faith in Jesus that their good works are utterly futile or despicable. And I don’t believe we have a Biblical basis to condemn their good works. Rather, we need to encourage and point people towards the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ, warning them that the rejection of Christ does bring condemnation. But the beautiful part is that the acceptance of Christ gives freedom from condemnation. Amen! Lovers of true goodness will be drawn unto God/Jesus b/c He is the wellspring of all goodness and everything good. I suppose it’s similar to John 6:45.

    It’s been somewhat of a personal intellectual marathon for me to write this post, so forgive me if it seems too much like nonsensical stream of consciousness. But I do pray that God would allow you to glean any wisdom that, well, is gleanable from this comment! May we grow in God and do His will in the earth! Praise Jesus! God bless you in Christ!