“On every street corner you hear…” While most people would finish this phrase with “silver bells”, I am thinking of eyes begging and dirty hands clutching a sign that says, “Homeless. Please help.”
This time of year there seems to be more people on the streets, holding signs asking for help. They are making the most of the giving season because they need it the most.
Yes, we could go on to argue whether a person may or may not be taking advantage of others’ generosity, but I would dare to beg you to reconsider letting this be your first response.
I am so thankful to God for his mercy toward me and his willingness to strip me of my judgmental eye. There was a time when that would be my first thought or I would assume I knew what they needed best, but God exposed my judgmental ways and brought me to a new understanding.
The first time (yes, apparently, I’m a slow learner) God ripped open my heart was while I was living in Vienna, Austria. Like any other day, I was enjoying the breathtaking city while strolling down a main thoroughfare. I happened to look down and saw a man, who had obviously not showered in some time, holding a cup and silently begging for money.
Now, I am not one to give money. I just never have. I rarely carry it but I tend to feel better if I provide something needed instead of providing money that might go to other purposes (oohhh….that’s a bit judgmental. Or is it discerning and trying to be a good steward? I believe that’s a heart issue each individual needs to take up between herself and God.) When I saw him, my first thought was to provide him with food. I ran into the nearest store and purchased a sandwich.
When I offered him the sandwich, he refused! REFUSED FOOD! Now, he is begging right? Obviously in need! So why on earth would he refuse to take food? Ok, so maybe he just wanted the money for other things! Oh, how sadly my judgmental heart revved up.
Then finally, he smiled. It’s a smile I will never forget because it brought me to my knees and made me realize how absolutely prideful and judgmental I had been. And then I knew why he refused my offering.
He refused the sandwich because he had NO TEETH! That sandwich was absolutely useless to him. He knew what he needed and I just assumed I knew what was best. After this realization, I quickly went into the next closest shop and then presented him a smoothie. This he took with a smile!
That interaction has FOREVER changed my outlook on “helping others.” Am I really helping or am I judging and assuming I know what is best for them? Since that time, God has continued to work on my heart. Now when I see someone asking for help, whether on a street corner or elsewhere, I SEE that PERSON. And because I see them as a person, my interactions are different.
My interactions tend to go something like this:
- “Hi! I have ______. Would you like it?”
- “What are you needing right now?” And the answers I get are so varied from diapers to a motel room to food to gas.
- Then if I am able, I will go and get what they need and bring it back.
- “What is your name?” This really seems to take people back. Most people don’t ask for their names. They are just an “it” out on the street. Most smile when they tell me their name.
- “I will be praying for you, insert their name. What specifically would you like me to pray about for you?” Again, the answers to this are so varied, but I’ve never had anyone turn the prayer down. A few times, I’ve even had people ask what they can pray about for me.
- Then I write their names, location, and prayer requests down in either my daily planner or on my phone. That way the next time I see them, I can call them by name and let them know that I remember them and I care.
Many times this is all done really quickly as I’m sitting in my car before the light changes. Changes…oh, how God has changed my heart in regards to how I see people. In a way, Christ has lent me his eyes, so I see his people for who he created them to be and not the circumstance they are currently living.
There have been a handful of times where our interactions have turned into relationships. As in everything, we should always be prayerful about our interactions and how God can use us. And I have been thankful for God’s guidance during these times.
May this be a challenge to you and encourage you to see all people for who God made them to be. To put away our judgmental ways and give from the blessings we have been given. Yes, some might not make the best decisions with what they are given, but at least we have honored God with our choice to obey him and plant a seed of hope, love, and redemption in others’ lives.
For Christ did not over look those in need; instead, he walked up to them, engaged them, and asked if they would receive his help. Should we not do the same?
When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” – John 5:6
How has God broken your heart for the homeless or those in need?
Are you ready to take the December challenge and start using Christ’s eyes to see people and who he created them to be?
We would love to hear about how God has guided your heart in reaching out to others in need, in whatever circumstance that might have been.