About 4 years ago, it was recommended to me that I should apply for a chaplain position with one of the homeless ministries in town. I had lots of experience and interest. My education made me a superb candidate. Between my references and enthusiasm, I managed to be scheduled for 3 interviews on 3 different occasions.
It was a part-time job. The pay was low. Because of those things, to take it on would be rather sacrificial, because it would mean I would have to take other work too to make up for the financial difference. But because it appeared to fall front and center into my main ministerial passion and career ideals, even my wife was excited for me to get the job.
Needless to say, a job like that does not attract a lot of interest. Who wants a tough job that amounts to 3/4 volunteer work with difficult people in desperate circumstances?
Not many. In fact, I was the only one that applied.
As far as I could tell, my first two interviews were stellar! I seemed to make a very positive impression. My enthusiasm only increased. But the thing was… I needed to meet a couple of key people on the board of directors before the process was finalized, and neither of them had been available at the appointed times of the first two interviews. The one guy that had interviewed me twice gave a good report back, but because the rules stated that these other VIP’s needed to meet me first, it meant one more interview.
“No problem!” I thought. “My pleasure,” I thought. “Small price to pay,” I thought.
I arrived at the 3rd interview full of confidence. This was merely a formality. I dressed professionally. I brought my ministry portfolio that I had created back in school. Everyone was smiles and seemed very positive.
But then about 10 minutes into the 3rd interview, one of the board members asked me, “Would you ever give money to a homeless person?”
Hmmm…. I had read the book, When Helping Hurts, and I knew it was a buzz among various ministers/ministries around town. I had a sneaky suspicion that the question was prompted because some (or all) of the board of directors had likely read it. I still felt confident, however, after all, I answered the question with Scripture. I was sure that I would be okay.
I cited Luke 6:30 and said, “To follow the word of Jesus: Yes, I would.” I went on to note that Jesus told the rich guy to sell all he had and give it to the poor (Mark 10:21), and that if Jesus would tell that rich man to do that, then he would have no problem with me giving a few dollars away. I went on to suggest that there is a fear that money given like that to a homeless person could be used to buy booze, but since the Bible, in Proverbs 31:6-7 actually directs the reader to give booze to the destitute, that I would not worry about how a homeless person spends a few dollars I might give him.
I mean, I answered the question with the very words of Jesus! But I sensed a heavy cloud form over the room as I spoke. I could see the smiles turn to uneasy glances between interviewers. As I spoke, one lady even closed up her notebook and started putting it away. And very quickly, even abruptly we might say, the interview was over. The main contact guy told me he would call me the next Monday or Tuesday with an answer for me. I walked out feeling gutted.
Sure enough, the guy called a few days later. He did not reference the question or my answer that changed everything, but he did tell me that currently the board had no other applicants for this job (that almost nobody would even want for low pay). And then he told me that he was “sorry, but the board [did] not think [I] was a fit with [their] team,” so they would “keep looking.” He thanked me for applying and cut me loose with that.
The bright side of it is that I found out I was not a fit with their team. The dark side was that I was not a fit for their team.
While no one ever referenced the book, When Helping Hurts, in that exchange (thus I cannot be 100% certain that that is the source of my misfit), I happen to know that the prevailing attitude among Lubbock ministers toward giving money to the poor coincided with the discovery and dissemination of that book. It is my top suspect. And so, I believe When Helping Hurts has hurt me specifically in career goals as well as making ministry in Lubbock not fit with the Word of God or with me.
Add this post to a long list of posts that gripe about that sorry book (When Helping Hurts). I am sorry if it makes me out like a broken record, but the attitude persists and the misfit right along with it. Therefore I continue to persist in denouncing it and resisting it. And I am happy to make the homeless and poor in Lubbock aware of what’s going on, where this problem comes from, and arm them with Scripture with which to counteract it. My continued discussion of it over the course of many posts makes this rebuttal more likely to hit on a Google search too… and well, I think the world needs to know and to reconsider.