When The Story Doesn’t Add Up

Have you ever had that experience talking to a homeless person on a street corner and the sob-story comes pouring out, but the more you listen and ask a few nosey questions somehow the facts just don’t seem to add up?  I mean you hate to think this person, who obviously has needs, is just flat out lying to you, but you start feeling suspicious that maybe they are.  Sound familiar?

I have had this experience many times, and I have heard my friends of means describe this type of experience too.  And being lied to has a way of putting a really bad taste in my mouth.  You too???

Cops hate it too.  They pull people over for speeding or a busted tail light and get sob-stories that don’t add up all the time.  They tell me that if you treat them with respect and honesty, it is much more likely that they MIGHT not give you the ticket!

If that is true for cops, then I figure it goes for people of means trying to relate with the homeless on a street corner too.  Not only does this guy reek of urine and booze, but he really seems to be lying about how the cops hassled him, the shelter kicked him out for no good reason, and “some guy” stole all his stuff last night!  Yeah, been there; done that!  And now that the guy is beneath your contempt, you either don’t want to serve him or you regret that you did and somehow the next bum you meet is gonna pay for the sins of the last one.

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How about we deal with this differently?

You could just send the guy down to the nearest soup kitchen or shelter and let them deal with him.  There is a good chance they already know him.  If not, there is a good chance they will want his ID (which he may not have).  But if you are going to be proactive about that, you probably should have those phone numbers and addresses written down ahead of time on a little card you can give to the bum and send him away.  But that is starting to turn into red tape in its own rite for both him and you.  It is highly impersonal and no kind of sacrifice for you.

You did want to help… right?  So, lets see if we can cut through the crap and red tape.

First off, a little understanding is in order here.  If you are a disciple of Jesus, you want to serve him, AND Jesus claims that “the least of these brothers [and sisters ARE HIM]” (Matt. 25:40).  He does not say “the honest brothers and sisters” but “the least”!  And this bum qualifies.  So treating him with dignity is going to be seen in heaven and it will matter there.  This is of first importance!  How do you want Jesus to say he was treated by you in this life?  However you answer that question is how you should treat this person.  Judgment hangs in the balance (read the whole pericope to see what I mean).

Secondly, keep in mind that people living on the streets, more often than not, suffer mental illness, are former inmates in jails and prisons (or other kinds of institutional living situations), are suffering addictions OR war related PTSD.  Any, or all, of these things play a part in causing a person to behave in manipulative ways – including lying!  And anyway, anyone living on the streets is in survival mode.  You are a stranger to them too.  They have one shot at gaining your sympathy and help, they will do whatever they think best, including manipulative lies, to maximize their chances with you – as much out of desperation as anything.  (Think of the last time you were pulled over by a cop.  Did you feel the temptation to play on her sympathies and try to maximize your chances?)

If you have a little understanding of both of these dynamics, you should be able to ward off the feeling of offense and contempt.  You need to keep in mind that you are serving Jesus here, not the lies.  This person has innate value and should be treated by fellow human beings better than he treats himself.  Cut through the chatter, serve the need – with sacrifice.  If the bum’s mind is not just totally wasted on drugs or mental illness, this will bring conviction into their heart.  If not, then like heaping burning coals on your enemy’s head, you will have reward in heaven (Prov. 25:22).  But really, with time, patience, and RELATIONSHIP you will find new places in the heart, and no shelter service or soup kitchen is ever going to do that serving hundreds at a time with all the red tape.  But you will, IF YOU KEEP YOUR COOL.

 

 

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8 comments

  1. T. F. Thompson · January 9

    Okay, let’s assume this guy is a lying bum. So what? All these bums usually ask for is some pocket change or occasionally a dollar or two. That’s a whole lot cheaper than either a preacher or politician will ask for. So then, who’s zooming who? Personally, I like it when they come right out and ask for money for a beer or cigarettes. Sometimes, it fare for the city bus. What difference does it make? How many of us have gone broke because of THEM. If you are a guy, how much money have you spent on dates that otherwise didn’t work out? How many times have we bought something we really didn’t want and in fact, didn’t use either? Many times, of course! So then, these people are bums to people like you and me, but are so much, so very, very important to our Lord. I say we should serve the Lord and not focus on whom we are providing service as such. That is for God to judge that, yet we will be judge whether or not we obey His words.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agent X · January 9

      That was a really good comment! Thanx for that response. I hope my readers here will read what you have to offer and take it to heart. A little perspective… how much money and time to you waste on yourself in all these vain endeavors while holding a beggar in contempt? Good observation!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Agent X · January 9

    I reblogged a post from Austin Cranfield’s blog on “Humanizing the Homeless” in which he too opens with the Matthew 25 passage. I keep thinking on that topic and his title for it, which is appropriate alright, but suddenly I think more to the point he and I are really Christ-anizing the homeless (Seeing Jesus Christ in them) and thereby humanizing them.

    I think I need to trim that term down somehow. But when I find the right terminology for it, then I will post on it and refine the same thinking into that shape.

    Anyone got suggestions for a different way of saying Christ-anizing?

    Perhaps… Jesu-fying?

    Something? Anything? … anybody??? Help???

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Larry Who · January 9

    God loved us while we were yet sinners. So, maybe we should do the same.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · January 9

      Thanx Larry, that comment has a way of slicing right through the butter. Good point.

      Like

  4. BrookeM · January 11

    I’ve seen a couple of news articles lately that have made me think about you and some of your posts. I ran across this one today in my Facebook feed: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/11/your-brain-on-poverty-why-poor-people-seem-to-make-bad-decisions/281780/

    We are all so quick to judge others….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · January 11

      BrookeM,

      That is a truly fascinating research. Thanx for sharing that! I hope my readers will follow the link. It is good stuff.

      Like

  5. zeroneday.com · January 21

    Great post! I’ve been lied to more times than I can count, but it always seems to end up biting them not me. I’ve run into people I know from the streets later and ask a question about something from our prior encounters. I’ve had them fess up right there and then I forgive them right there. Then I tell them a little story about how it’s easier to just always be honest. We’re not God’s judgement, we’re His mercy.

    Like

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