Give to Him that Asketh
“Can you give me five bills? I need to buy wipes for my baby.” The man standing at my door was young and strong. He had a job. Why was he asking me for money?
“I have some wipes. I’d be glad to share them with you,” I said.
“But I need some other things. Food and stuff,” he said.
“I just bought more rice and beans. I can give them,” I said.
We went back and forth with his story changing several times until he leaned toward me, eyes narrowed to slits. “Are you going to give me the money or not?”
Only a few days later some children were at my house playing, and they admired our assortment of toys. “Miss Crystal, may I have a dolly?” one of the girls asked.
We had several dolls. We didn’t need all of them. Do I give a doll to her since she asked?
One day a man came to the gate with an elaborate story. With tears in his eyes he told me he had just gotten out of prison and he was trying to straighten up his life. He was having a hard time because nobody believed him. He needed money for the bus. Could I please help?
What does the Bible mean when it says, “Give to him that asketh of thee?” Do we blindly give anything to anyone who asks? Do we try to make sure the things we give them are going for a worthy cause?
Since moving to Belize, I’ve had more requests for money than I care to count. Money for medical procedures, food, bus fare, and even batteries for a TV. The mission’s policy is that we generally don’t give out money (Calloused, cynical people who made that rule! Don’t they read their Bible?). A church fund is designated for needs in the village, and one of the local men oversees dispersing money if someone has a need. But we are free to give from our budget to help people as we see best.
So what do I do when someone is standing at my gate asking for money? On one hand, God has told us to give cheerfully and to take care of the poor, so give as the Lord has blessed you. Let God worry about what they do with it. On the other hand, we are stewards of what God gave us, God commands those who are able to provide for their own, and we do not want to create dependency but rather empower the poor to help themselves. What do we do with the verses on giving when they seem to contradict other verses in the Bible?
In Acts 3, Peter and John went to the temple to pray and on the way, they met a beggar who was asking for money. They did not give him money, but instead healed him. The beggar thought his greatest need was money, but instead he received something far better. This story has helped me look differently at people who are asking me for money.
When someone asks us for money, we do need to give to fulfill the Bible command (Matthew 5:42), but money may not be their greatest need. In fact, I rarely give money to anyone, especially someone I don’t know.
We can give dignity. Beggars and panhandlers we meet on the street are people made in the image of God. I can give them a pleasant smile to affirm their worth as a human being.
We can give food. I have given away many pounds of rice, beans, flour and sugar. Feeding the hungry is one thing that will separate the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46), and Jesus said when we feed one of the least of men, it as if we are feeding Him (Matthew 25:40).
We can give a job. God told the Israelites to let the corners of their fields unharvested and the fallen fruit in their vineyards lay so that the poor could provide for themselves (Leviticus 23:22). If we have yard work that needs to be done, we will sometimes offer it to money-seekers. Those wanting a quick dollar usually pass, but many a money-seeker has chopped bushes and raked leaves in exchange for a few dollars.
And finally, we can give the Gospel. Whether a tract tucked into a bag of food or a word given in parting, we can tell people that Jesus cares about them and their predicament.
That young man at the beginning that was asking for $5? Yup, he got his $5. I realized that I was alone and was no match for him if he decided to force me to give the money. Would he get $5 from me today? Not a chance. He is a strong young man with a job, and he earns good money. He rarely has enough money because of his drinking problem. By giving him money for food, I would only be reinforcing that he can waste his money on drink but still not go hungry. I have, however, given food to his children sometimes.
The girl who asked me for a doll? Yup, she got the doll. Would I give her the doll if she asked today? Probably not. I don’t want to teach her to beg for whatever she wants. If she would ask me for a doll now, I would make an agreement with her such as, “Come every day after school for a week and wash dishes. Then you’ll have earned your doll.”
The man who said he’d just gotten out of prison? He was forgetting that he had come to my gate a year or two before with the same story. That time his tears had convinced me, and I had given him $12 to get to Belize City. I would have forgotten him except that recently he had come into a restaurant where I was eating and told the same story to the ladies behind the counter. So this time I instantly recognized him. I told him I would not give him money, but I could give him some food. He looked very disgusted and said he had food already and stomped off.
There are no cut and dried answers that apply to every situation, but if we depend on God, He’ll give us wisdom. Unlike us humans who can grow cynical or stingy, He always gives to all men liberally.