Even long before Jesus began his ministry on Earth, God’s people struggled to share their blessings with each other. It was one reason why God instituted societal structures like the Year of Jubilee, a widespread reset of land ownership, wealth, and social status. In Leviticus 25:35 God says, “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you. You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit.”
Living near Charleston, South Carolina, I have the opportunity to regularly run into people asking for money. Growing up in church, these situations were talked about fairly regularly. What do we do when we see someone with a cardboard sign at the intersection, or when we’re approached for money at the gas station? The easiest thing at this point is just to keep your window up. Tell them you don’t carry cash. That’s what I saw modeled by many adults around me as I was growing up and, sadly, what I’ve done myself many times. I’ve ignored the less fortunate. I’ve rationalized my own selfishness by thinking “they probably don’t really need this” or “they’re probably just going to buy alcohol.” But here’s a serious question: were poor people in Jesus’ time different than they are today? I doubt it. If that’s the case, how do we take Jesus’ words in Luke 6:30? He says, “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” No qualifiers. Not “give to everyone without a drinking problem” or “give to those who have a job.”
I think there’s more to this than just sharing our money, though. We are called to help people financially when they ask, that’s hard to get away from biblically even if we try. It’s God’s money, anyway, right? But beyond that we’re called to interact with people like Jesus would. Jesus didn’t just tolerate the poor, he loved them. He listened to their stories and provided for their specific needs. So what if we really don’t have any cash on us? Is there anything else we can do? Usually there is. Even something as simple as stopping to talk with someone for a while about there life can make a big difference. I’ve learned all kinds of things about people this way, and the stories of how people found themselves asking for help are pretty incredible. If you’re on your way to lunch, planning to pay with your credit card, why not invite them to eat with you? Better yet, plan ahead. Hide a $20 in that back pocket of your wallet, pray over it, and ask for God to send you someone who needs it. What are we so afraid of, anyway? The Christian way isn’t always easy. In fact, we know from history that it can be downright dangerous. But if we aren’t willing to follow Jesus’ example, what do our beliefs matter anyway?