Church vis-à-vis Jesus and the Homeless

As a street minister in a “Christian” town for the last decade, I find the church largely missing the mark (the definition of sin btw) as she relates to the homeless.  I see the homeless ignored, neglected, used, and thus abused – all in the guise of good intentions.  How can that be?

It’s easy to see the homeless ignored and neglected.  Just enter any church on a Sunday morning and look around.  If you don’t see any homeless people there, then consider them ignored and neglected (Matt. 25:45).  Just drive by any church after hours and check to see if the doors are locked – perhaps with a “no trespassing” sign.  Consider the homeless neglected and ignored (Matt. 25:45).  There are no after-hours for life on the streets.

According to the second half of Matthew 25, those brothers and sisters – “the least of these” – are Jesus himself.  Jesus locked out of church.  Isn’t that something?  How on earth does it go unnoticed?

It’s a little harder to see use (abuse), but there are churches and organizations that raise cash in service of the homeless.  This would seem to be a good thing, right?  Tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars, millions of dollars raised or projected.  And for what?  A pastor’s third car and second vacation?  A new shower or transitional housing program?  Are the stats on homelessness getting better or worse?

These pastors will convince you that if you give money to the poor, you will hurt them.  This despite the Bible’s repeated directives (Prov. 31:6-7; Mark 10:21; Luke 1:53, 6:30, and 14:13) to the contrary.  The Bible makes no case that your help will hurt the poor or that “enabling” is a problem to avoid.  Yet whole books are written on this notion, but they fly in the face of Jesus and leave the street homeless out in the cold and rain night after night while the pastors rake in the money for their “ministries.”

I do not claim these pastors mean to be crooks.  I think they mean well, but they hurt those they think they are helping by trying not to hurt them when they help them.

Confused yet?  Yeah, that’s how they get you.

Just today, I read a story about a nice lady who gave sauce pans to a local homeless ministry.  What a brilliant idea!  She raised awareness.  She avoided giving cash to addicts.  And she got her name in the paper.

The ministry she donated to is described by the article as a nonprofit organization that “helps homeless people transition back to a life inside four walls.”

And suddenly I see it.

Why is that the goal?  Four walls?  And is that really “life”?  Why not life in the family of God?

The story sounds good.  But I am talking about the church vis-a-vis Jesus here.  There are so many levels of this story gone awry, but no one notices.  First off, how are all those sauce pans going to help?  If we put up a booth with a sign down by the river that says “Free Sauce Pan”… “One per person please”… and “single-file please,” would we really be able to control the fiendish mob?  Are the homeless in need of sauce pans?  Really???  And how does that serve the cause of transitioning back to a life inside four walls?  Will they be honest, hard-working, independent, confident people at the end of this process?  Is that even a godly goal?

I read another story where the pastor makes the case that housing people is cheaper to tax payers than letting them languish outside.  This is backed up with solid research.  I have seen it myself.  And it is a powerful, persuasive argument for those with ears to hear.  It is highly appropriate as a secular case!

But this is a pastor at a church.  Why is he beholding to tax issues?  Is this a case Jesus would make?  Why do Jesus’s people need to be persuaded with such hifalutin, secular cases?  Why doesn’t the pastor just quote Jesus from Matthew 25 or Luke 14?  Could it be that this “Christian” town is more beholding to conservative ideals and politics than to Jesus?

Look.  We don’t need to raise a solitary dime.  We need only open our doors to Jesus (Matt. 25:38-40).  Just start by opening those church house doors.  “Behold,” Jesus says, “I stand at the door and knock.  If you open up, I will come in and eat with you” (Rev. 3:20).

This is the word of God.  It is a costly word, but it is the word that created and saves the world.  Why are “Christians” going to bed in fine homes in this town with empty guest bedrooms while Jesus languishes in the streets another night?  You asked him into your heart; why not your home?  Are you afraid he will steal your doilies?  Are you afraid he will smoke crack in your bathroom?

Well, he probably will.  He made a mess of the House of God in Jerusalem too! (Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:15; Luke 19:45; John 2:14-16).

So, my case is that homeless ministry should be more about changing our overall culture from insulation behind locked doors, velvet ropes, security cameras, home security systems, and limited access to one of care, openness, and love for “the least of these.”

The gospel does not promote independence; it promotes interdependence (Acts 2:43-45).  This sounds like promoting anarchy to those cowering in their enclaves; yet it is anything but.  Actually, it is the enthronement of Jesus in our hearts and joining the gospel in ordering the world.  It might cost you your life, but he will restore it.  It definitely will cost you your ideals and idols.

Let’s cut through the smoke screen of When Helping Hurts and associated programs.  We are not called to veiled selfishness.  We are called to give up our lives honoring the Holy Name.

The Fat Beggars School of Prophets aims to show you that by inviting you to eat the apocalyptic feast (Exod. 24:9-11; Isa. 25:6-8; Luke 24:30-31; I Cor. 11:23-27).

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One comment

  1. Lacie Cook · June 5, 2015

    I hurt with you for these poor neglected people. It seems to me that so many churches, or most of them, are there to serve the middle – upper class, to be certain the auditorium is clean, have pot lucks for members only and their families, and meet every Sunday for a sermon. The poor are not included. It hurts me, because I know of some of the poor you have befriended, and I know what jewels of God are out there in the streets. I am praying for those folks, and for the churches who do not practice true love.

    Like

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