It seems that you don’t go very far into street ministry before you run into sociologists and social workers everywhere. They all seem so wise. They have been there and done that. They know “what works and what doesn’t.” You are the rookie with a bleeding heart that will only hurt those you mean to help.
And sure enough, the “streets are tough.” The poverty is “intractable.” Your gift of a few dollars is “enabling.” And the statistics are growing worse every day. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and ignorant.
In fact, you are likely to bury your head in the sand the first time you get burned. For those who stay in the field, it quickly becomes apparent that giving a sandwich is wiser than giving $5. And those who see it this way almost universally think they have stumbled onto the wisdom of the ages.
And so the “cause” of homelessness becomes the demon we must conquer, and we must defer to the “experts” as we wage war with it. Otherwise, you are just “going rogue” or “causing harm.”
But as a Christian minister, I want to know what Jesus says about this. Even if I think the sociologists and social workers provide some wisdom, I really want Jesus’s wisdom even more – and that just might seem like foolishness to the wise (I Cor. 1:19-21).
Why are these people sleeping outside? Is it because of addiction, mental illness, war-related PTSD, some other kind of PTSD, a down economy, or laziness?
Yes. It is all of those. And the first five causes all have some built-in level of excusableness. It’s only the last one that pretty much warrants scorn – if it even does. And yet these people all suffer the stigma of the last one -laziness- whether it is the cause in part, in whole, or not at all. And there are plenty of war vets out there!
But here’s another reason these people are sleeping out there… and on the great Day of Judgment, it is the only one that will matter. So those of you with Christian ears to hear, listen up! It is because you did not take Me in (says Jesus) when you did not take in the least of my brothers and sisters (Matt. 25:45).
Fat Beggars School of Prophets proposes that you open up those church-house doors. Provide a chaperone and a meal. (You know, a meal like Jesus gave us?) And in so doing, you will bring these people in so that they are not sleeping outside, but in the sheepfold where Jesus wants them.
“Behold! I stand at the door and knock. If you open up, I will come in and eat with you…” (Rev. 3:20).
On that great Day of Judgment, what cause will you find for the intractable poverty? When the Shepherd King comes and finds the least of his brothers sleeping out in the cold, what answer will you give him? Will you join the sheep or the goats?
Your sociology and your social work can’t cope with this.