We have all seen homeless people. For some it is a daily occurrence as you commute to work, or it may be that you live in a neighbourhood that has lots of homeless people and for others it is something you see once in a blue moon. The reality is that homelessness is around us.
How do you respond?
When you witness homeless around you how do you respond? Are you the person that keeps walking by pretending not to see it? Do you cross to the other side of the street because you don't want to be faced with the truth of our world? Do you look the other way because you don't want to make eye contact and acknowledge what you see and therefore feel that you should do something? Do you stop and talk with the person? Do you throw your spare change into their dish and keep going? Do you speed up because you're scared?
We all respond differently to homelessness for one reason or another.
I live in a small city, and therefore we don't see much homelessness. I am very aware that there are families that are living around me that are poor and some can't afford food, but to be confronted with poverty like homelessness in a nice pristine city is quite in your face.
Recently, I saw a man sitting near the entrance to our grocery store, with a sign "down on my luck." Not only was I about to be confronted with this issue as I walked into the store, but I also had my children with me so I quickly had to assess how I was going to react to this man's plight. Was I going to ignore or acknowledge? Was I going to hurry through a different door or walk straight by him?
I had the choice and I had three pairs of eyes watching their mummy and wondering what is going on, who is that man, what is wrong with him?
I chose to follow James chapter 1 verse 27 "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." We all walked right up to him and acknowledge him as a fellow person. I talked with him and let him know that I was going shopping and asked if he was hungry or thirsty and if I could get him anything. The man turned me down but I kept asking because I wanted him to know that I was serious.
He informed me he was trying to get to another city. I offered food to eat again because I knew if he was going to do that journey it was going to be a long one. He declined and I continued shopping with my children. I was met with a barrage of questions after from my children as they tried to understand what just went on.
How does God want us to respond?
Matthew chapter 25 verse 40 says "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." We are called to help the widow, orphan and the homeless. We are called to acknowledge them and serve them. In the Old Testament times, Jewish farmers were commanded to not glean their whole fields, meaning they were not to harvest right to the edges because the leftovers were to be left for those in need (checkout the story of Ruth for more).
Today most of us are not farmers, yet the word still applies to us. We can bring food and supplies to those that are suffering and we can bring hope to those in need. So the next time you go to walk past a homeless person remember that they too are made in the image of God and we are called to love on the least of these.
Why not give money?
Just to clarify not all homeless people are drunks and addicts, there are a variety of reasons of why people are homeless. As someone who is throwing in money into the jar what am I enabling them to do? What are they going to use that money for?
I don't want to give money directly because I don't want to be an enabler for a habit that is not good for them and goes against my Christian beliefs and may eventually kill them. Yes, I do understand their life may not be good right now but as a believer in Christ I know there is a way out. Is this money going to solve their problem? The truth is probably not. I would much rather give them what they need then just hand out money.
You don't need to give just money to help
There are many different ways you can help a homeless person without giving money directly to them. You can give money to a local homeless shelter, volunteer at your local soup kitchen, give to the food bank or take a homeless person out for lunch or coffee.
Get to know a homeless person, find out their story, love on them, and serve the least of these as we are called to do. Take bread and food down to spots where you know homeless people hang out. Take a homeless person with you to the grocery store and have them pick out some things they need.
Another great way to help homeless is put together a Blessing Backpack with a water bottle, soap, tooth brush, few granola bars, new pair of undies and socks, razor, shampoo, tooth paste, a clean blanket, a few cans of food, a gift card for a coffee shop and a Bible. Leave these backpacks in your car and the next time you come across a homeless person bless them with this pack.
How amazing would it be to bless homeless people with blessing backpack? Instead of walking passed them, we would get down on our hands and knees and look them in the eye and show them that there are valued by us but more importantly God. Let us all walk out our faith with deeds of blessing. For James chapter 2 verse 17 tells us that faith without deeds is dead
Genevieve Wilson is a happily married stay at home, home-schooling mum of 3, whose passion is to see people come to know Jesus. She worked 8 years as a missionary with Youth with a Mission (YWAM). She has a heart for justice and to see the abolition of the modern day slave trade.
Genevieve Wilson's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/genevieve-wilson.html