Beggars, Bums, and Prophets Behind The Veil (Invitation Series Post #2)

Easter Tent City II

Handouts and Hand-Ups???

How many meetings have I attended…?  How many seminars…?  How many books I have read…?  How many blogs???  How many times?  How many ways, have I heard it said that we must not give a “handout but a hand-up”?

There is a feeling – a philosophy of thought, a notion, a fear – dictating that if we freely give the LOVE of God to a bum or beggar then our efforts to “help” will at least be wasted, probably harm the one(s) we serve, and might even hurt ourselves.  There is a constant push, by that feeling of fear, that drives this to get behind “root causes”.  It then gets bogged down in paralysis of analysis.  And as soon as someone offers a new gimmick that sells a lot of books and gets a lot of hype, it isn’t long before we realize we’ve reached another false summit, and the problem is just far bigger than we had imagined.  We just don’t ever create the utopian ideal where we ministers can finally just go back home and trust that the poor have now been helped, that they have joined the middle class, and that they no longer need our care.

I, of course, am quick to point out the elephant in the room: a quiet contempt and disgust grows in the hearts of those who have taken up the task to serve.  How many meetings have I attended where someone in leadership has observed that in the last few years of our benevolence ministry, we just keep seeing the same faces show up for their free handouts?  The problem just never goes away; it seems perpetual!  Our LOVE is not fixing them!  We must cut it off and do something different!

(And there it is – contempt; though no one wants to admit it.)

Let’s Go Behind The Veil

Despite the fact that Christian ministers have published (and I presume raked in some cash) books, blogs, seminars and so forth offering remedies peppered with Spiritual sounding wisdom and a few biblical citations to match, this blog has repeatedly called the bluff on that garbage.  Try as you may, you just will not find Jesus, the apostles, nor saints or angels anywhere in the Bible, outlining these problems in anything remotely like you find in these books.  The Good Shepherd never says, “Okay, boys, after you have left the 99 on the hill to search for the one seventy times seven times, then on the four hundred and ninety-first time out, you can put that lamb through a job training course, an addiction treatment center, AND make him pay a token fee before you give him any more of God’s Grace – because that lamb needs to learn that God’s LOVE ain’t a free ride!”

So, what does the Bible really say?  What will we find behind the veil?

I want to explore the psalms just a bit.  There are several psalms, and bits of psalms, that address God’s care for the poor and needy.  And since the psalms are our tour guide behind the veil, it is appropriate that we follow where they lead rather than our conventional wisdom which has birthed a quiet contempt in us for the very people God LOVEs.

Psalm 72

   Give the king your justice, O God,
    and your righteousness to the royal son!
May he judge your people with righteousness,
    and your poor with justice!
Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
    and the hills, in righteousness!
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
    give deliverance to the children of the needy,
    and crush the oppressor!

May they fear you[a] while the sun endures,
    and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
    like showers that water the earth!
In his days may the righteous flourish,
    and peace abound, till the moon be no more!

May he have dominion from sea to sea,
    and from the River[b] to the ends of the earth!
May desert tribes bow down before him,
    and his enemies lick the dust!
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
    render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
    bring gifts!
11 May all kings fall down before him,
    all nations serve him!

12 For he delivers the needy when he calls,
    the poor and him who has no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
    and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
    and precious is their blood in his sight.

15 Long may he live;
    may gold of Sheba be given to him!
May prayer be made for him continually,
    and blessings invoked for him all the day!
16 May there be abundance of grain in the land;
    on the tops of the mountains may it wave;
    may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
    like the grass of the field!
17 May his name endure forever,
    his fame continue as long as the sun!
May people be blessed in him,
    all nations call him blessed!

18 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
    who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
    may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!

(text copied and pasted from BibleGateway.com)

Perhaps we American Christians lose our orientation to God when we think of living under a KING.  Our whole culture was born from the idea of rebellion against the king and the abolition of kingly rule!  Shame on us! 

BUT…

I ask you to notice: THERE IS NO HINT OF CONCERN REGARDING HANDOUTS VS. HAND-UPS!

If we can recover our orientation behind the veil, we see that this appeal to the KING is comprehensive in scope.  Yes, I highlighted the references to the poor and needy in red, but the dominion of this KING stretches “from sea to sea”, and “from the river to the ends of the earth”!  His “name endure[s] forever” and “the whole earth [is] filled with his glory!”  Read the whole psalm!  It is within this context of everywhere and for all time that we find appeal to care for the poor and needy!  And the appeal is not for a smarter job-training program, not for a better addiction treatment program, and not for a token fee, or even to teach these people a lesson!  No.  The appeal is to the KING for his justice!  -AND-  For a crushing of the oppressor!

NOW…

If the church wants to be relevant to the world that desperately wants to see behind the veil, what part might we play in this drama?  Dare we take the part of the hands and feet of this KING?  During this holiday season, NOW is the TIME.  Our streets are the PLACE.  WE are the people.

Think about it…

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7 comments

  1. Ryan · November 21

    Brennan Manning said, “I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it. The Good News of the Gospel of grace cries out: We are all equally privileged but unentitled beggars at the door of God’s mercy!” From our middle class privileged state (with homes and jobs and disposable income) we usually don’t see ourselves as beggars, when really we’re all undeserving beggars with our cardboard signs asking for what we don’t deserve, His mercy. We have a tendency to think that we’ve pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps. It’s the American dream/delusion: that if we work hard we’ll be successful. That if we put forth enough effort then the effort will be rewarded. So naturally enough we’ve translated this delusion into the spiritual. This version of Christianity is a pull-myself-up-by-my-own-bootstraps religion, and we’ve sold the righteousness of Jesus for our own self-righteousness, and sold a boat load of books about it. We’ve, as a church, drunk the Kool-Aid of self-made superiority.

    Many of us seem to know the testimony of grace in our minds, but fail to practice it in everyday life. Rich Mullins summarizes: “If I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ. . . the best way that I can do that is to identify with the poor. . . Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in a beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved, and Jesus loved the poor. And Jesus loved the broken.”

    If these are the ones Jesus identified with, what am I doing?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agent X · November 21

      Thanx for that supportive comment.

      I like how you draw out the picture of us middle class folk being beggars too. I sense that as we do like Mullins says, in the quote you offered, we both find care and solidarity with the poor (who are the Matt 25 face of Jesus) and find fresh fertile ground for imagining the world much more like Jesus imagines it.

      Yeah, Thanx so much for your participation. It is invaluable here!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Debi · November 21

      Ryan, may I quote you on my Jesus House Western Maryland facebook page?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ryan · November 22

        Sure Debi, to His glory.

        Like

  2. Debi · November 21

    This subject is a recurring one in my ministry. I am guilty. May I also quote you?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Agent X · November 22

    Debi, Sorry to be so dimwitted, but it appears you are asking to quote me (X) in addition to Ryan. I am slow to catch on, and not sure either. But if so, the answer is YES of course. If it gets me put on trial, so be it! Also, I assume I understand “guilt” here. I hope my offerings help.

    BTW, your participation here blesses me deeply too. Your input is invaluable and appreciated!

    Thanx!

    Like

  4. Anna Waldherr · December 18

    Amen!

    Liked by 1 person

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