Why The Stigma On Begging?

The idea is simple:  You do an honest day’s work and get an honest day’s wage.  There is a basic dignity in that.  It is respectable.  If everyone did that, the world would be a better place.

But then there are the cheaters.  People who don’t do an honest day’s work, but they somehow manage to get the wage.  They lie; they steal; and sometimes even coerce a wage.  Criminals, they are, and often they go to jail for such – but not often enough.  In fact, white-collar crime tends to get a pass and somehow seems more respectable.  But this is an irony.

But do you ever stop to think how much of that kind of thing is not a crime?  A lot of it is built right into the system.  It may not get in the bold print of the advertisement, but the fine print says it’s legal.  And whether we agree with it or not, it does impinge upon the basic simple idea we began with at the top of this post.

I worked in retail for years.  In fact it was a “Christian” book store.  The standard markup is 40-50%.  Our store was a discount store.  We took 10% off the markup from almost everything we sold and offered deeper cuts as a matter of weekly or monthly specials.  But we still marked up prices 30-40%.  This was the margin we tried to live on.  This margin paid for our service.

But then other “Christian” bookstores came along to compete against us.  They looked for an edge.  They looked at our niche and probed us for vulnerabilities in the market.  They took a strategy of growth, and once they started getting ahead, they began discounting our products with deeper discounts than we could afford.  Meanwhile, they created flashy promo’s that out classed ours.  They drew our customers away from us and started selling to them.

That’s all fair.  That’s just business.  But it sure ain’t Christian.  So why did it win respect for our competitors?

Some people do legal work, but in fields that are not respected – or at least historically were not respected.  Think of strippers at topless bars or IRS officials.  Even if they are honest about the wage they make, it suffers disrespect, or at least these kinds of things used to suffer that.  I suppose the IRS is not likely to win friends among the people they “serve” but they are legit.  Strippers seem to have more respect and popularity these days than when I was young.  And they sure make easy money and lots of it.  Kinda like rock stars, it probably shouldn’t be right, but somehow it kinda is – or so we allow.  Like the song says, “You get your money for nuthin’ and your chicks for free”.  A lot of us are ironically impressed with that.

But then there are the banks and the insurance companies.  We pay them to assume risk and generate capital which creates financial energy and moves whole societies this way or that.  But that is not the same as doing an honest day’s work for an honest wage.  Those services are thin as the air, and there are no physical/tangible products at the end of that process.  It’s all other people’s money, and when these organizations begin to control loads of it, they enrich themselves to the point of little or no accountability.  And that is assuming they are honest and legal, which frequently, as recent history has demonstrated repeatedly, is not the case.  So how is it that these organizations bear any respect?  This is the worst kind of abuse, is it not?

I had lunch with a lady as part of a church group one Sunday after church a few years ago.  She worked as a loan officer in a bank.  She felt conflicted about a certain account in her office from earlier in the week, and she openly discussed it with us fellow Christians around the table.  Without giving names (she was careful to guard privacy), she told of a family who had taken out big loans and purchased heavy equipment for their family business.  But this was back in 2009 when the economy had just tanked, and business was sluggish.  Financially, this family was limping along about as far as the bank would allow.  Even their house was tied up in the credit now, and they were at the end of the line.  This lady lamented that she had to go in Monday morning and sign off on repossession of property against this hard working family.  Her eyes pleaded for relief or validation from her Christian brothers and sisters around that table.

I was stunned when my brothers and sisters tried to comfort her!  They told her, “You gotta do what you gotta do.  These people signed an agreement.  They knew what they were getting into…  You are not to blame….”

I hauled off and said, “But of course, if you want to follow Jesus’s way, you really have no choice but to forgive the debt.”

That idea went over like a lead zeppelin.  Suddenly, I was the freak at the lunch table.  There was a scramble to marginalize the Word of God and my input.  In the end, I presume the bank lady followed through with her plan.  I don’t really know.  I was just visiting that church and those people.  I never met her again.  But I feel reasonably sure, her hatchet job on that hard working family was considered legal, ethical, moral, and right.  But it pretty much destroys that simple idea at the top of this post.

And with all this as a background, I wonder then why begging is considered beneath contempt.  If a bum on a corner asks for money from passing cars, why is that made illegal?  Why is it viewed with disrespect?  And if the guy actually makes a living wage doing that, what ground do you stand on to condemn it?

And don’t try to tell me he is harming himself whether with drugs/alcohol or sloth.  The “system” is already rewarding the bankers and strippers and rock stars with that, and I don’t see you shaming them.



  1. T. F. Thompson · May 7

    How about the fact such as the case in 2008 when the banks went belly up and the taxpayers bailed them out. Or then again, the savings and loan companies way back when. Yes, their loans were forgiven as well. You see, when it comes to the big buys such as GMC or Donald Trump the laws are built in to protect them. This is NOT true for the little guy as they demand their pound of flesh. When Bush Jr was president, they revamped the bankruptcy laws. Little guys were screwed but corporations were protected. Simply look into the 1913 Banking Act: the private federal reserve system gets to print money that is backed by nothing, then charge taxpayers for printing then interest: All of this is crooked on multiple fronts, but it is part of the system. It’s been this way since the beginning of time so no, your comment wasn’t way off, but our system is and people have bought into the system. Anyone can challenge me on the facts above. I left out many that were forgiven, but it came into the billions and billions of dollars. afterward, we turned around and loaned them MORE money to keep them afloat. btw, GMC never paid us back.


    • Agent X · May 7

      Thanx Tom.

      I see your point. In fact it coincides with mine completely. The follow up I have done on the 2008 crash gels with everything you say here. I feel ya.

      But it is with all that in mind, as a back drop, that I now ask, So, Why the stigma on begging?

      I really hope readers here will search their soul just a bit. Begging gets a stigma. It is shameful. But why?

      I have never personally begged the public or strangers for money. But that is because I don’t have a need of it. I have, on the other hand, joined those who do. I have been on that street corner flying a sign myself. I did it, though, with the subtle difference that my sign did not ask for cash. I asked for prayer – for my friends on the streets. But that difference is so subtle that sometimes people would try to give me cash. And anyway, my point really is that I came so close to that flame myself that I felt the scorn, the shame, the stigma.

      The first time I took up a sign on the street corner, I actually trembled with shame. I felt myself breaking a cultural taboo. I embraced shame. I really worried my boss or some of my friends might drive by and see me there. How would I explain myself? And if they did, what rumors would circulate around the water cooler next week? Would I be able to sufficiently challenge them? Would this destroy my life and my image? I mean, you really have to wrestle the Pride angel to do that. But Why?

      I could say a lot more on all that. And perhaps I will in time. But for now, I just want my readers to face this question too. Why the stigma for begging???


  2. Larry Who · May 7

    “….I hauled off and said, “But of course, if you want to follow Jesus’s way, you really have no choice but to forgive the debt…”

    I disagree with you on this one.

    If the money were owed to the the female loan officer, the lady could forgive the debt. But the money was owed to her employer whom she worked for. Her first obligation was to work for her master (employer) as though he were Jesus and to serve that master. The covenant (loan) was between her employer and the purchaser of the equipment. If she felt bad about the repossession, she could plead the case for the purchaser with her employer. And if that did not work, her alternative was to forget about it or quit.

    We can’t serve two masters.

    The Bible is filled with answers for businessmen, workers, bankers, borrowing, and so forth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · May 7

      Oh… Larry! I wrote a whole response to this once already and then the baby unplugged the computer right before I could hit “post comment”. Ouch! I will try to answer you again, but it feels harder to do under these conditions now…

      First off, let me say, I am so glad to have your disagreement!

      I know that sounds strange. Let me qualify it. I actually want agreement with everything I say. The world would improve; I am certain! But that is a bit shortsighted to think that way.

      In the bigger picture, let me say that I know I am wrong about some things, and at present, I don’t know which bits those are. So, in the meantime, I will do my best to practice a bit of humility with regard to my own opinions on things. Disagreement provides an opportunity for me to clear some of that up, hopefully.

      But then also, I am thrilled that you feel comfortable enough to engage me with honesty and sincerity and not just flattery. I really want that on this blog. You disagree? Yes. But you do so respectfully, and that is welcome. I am fallible, actually, and your input on this more serious level is welcome.

      Your response to my post is not only respectful, it is insightful. You bring out matters here I did not even acknowledge. Perhaps I just breezed over them too cavalierly. Perhaps I just didn’t care enough. Whatever the case, your input here strikes me as worthwhile for consideration, and I expect other readers might very well share your concerns that I have left unaddressed and perhaps violated.

      So, thanx for this response. It is deeply appreciated here.

      I will not argue exhaustively, but I will respond in a bit of give and take here on your point(s). I hope you find my response as respectful as I find yours.

      Your response does not actually persuade me, and here is why…

      The “Christian” lady I described was feeling guilty for the way her organization was treating this family. I expect she has some, if not complete, discretion in dealing with this family, but she feels some sense of pressure or duty or whatever to foreclose/repossess. Nevermind that the family, according to her, was hard working and honest and just had a run of “bad luck” as we say. They did everything right, within their power, to honor the agreement up to that point. The only thing left was to surrender to the bank under the terms they agreed to, alright.

      But here’s the thing (or things) that made the difference. That agreement was not ratified by God. God makes a lousy business man. And, well, this is his creation, not the banks. If the bank wants to engage in shalom breaking deals they should leave this creation to do it. Meanwhile, God is in charge around here, not the bank, and that Christian lady works first and foremost for him no them – or she should.

      As you rightly point out, she cannot serve two masters. That is a quote from Jesus. However the rest of that quote specifies that the two masters in question are God and MONEY – the very master the bank (and this lady) have chosen to serve. But Mammon has no right to take charge of this creation. He needs to learn his place.

      This woman could very easily pay the price for taking that direction with it. And that too is exactly Christ-like. She could have paid the debt in their place, by taking the punishment for them. That would be a very prophetic thing to do. Just imagine it. This bank in this Christian town where everyone is giving Jesus lip service at least would be confronted by an employee who has already proven herself to be competent and loyal, but now sacrifices all that for God and his good graces. Surely the bank would recognize that Jesus is Lord, and if not, I would imagine it could quite easily become a news item in the local press where, once it comes to light that the loan officer follows Jesus when he says Forgive the Debt rather than Mammon who says not to, that the bank risks being shamed.

      Lets not forget that Jesus also tells a parable about a man who pleas forgiveness from a big debt but then runs out and finds someone who owes him a small debt and has the guy thrown in jail over it. Once the forgiver of the big debt heard of it, he had this punk thrown in jail. Jesus tells us to forgive or we will not be forgiven. He does not say that we can allow earthly authorities to come between us and his.

      Also, Jesus tells yet another parable of the unjust steward who settled his boss’s debts at reduced rate to save his own job! That puts a new twist on things, but it surely praises that crooked steward’s willingness to manipulate the debts between other parties in a way that forgives much of it.

      So, you see, I really must stand with Jesus even if the bank doesn’t like it, but I would hope that at least in a town like this one, it would speak for Jesus to hearts that just might be open to giving their own lip service a bit of depth.


      • Agent X · May 7

        I sense that the point of my original post is not getting the traction I desire here. All that picture I paint of different ways of earning money and forgiving debt (or not) is meant to be a back drop to the question: Why the stigma for begging? I am happy to address some of my supporting stuff again, if need be, but it never was my actual point.

        And, by the way, there is a whole other slant on the question. (At least one other, if not more.) As Tom points out, other people beg all the time (or do a variation of it) with little or no stigma. Consider all the fundraisers for charities, consider your church collection plate, consider politicians fundraising. These all somehow get a pass and maintain our respect. But if a bum on a corner flies a sign asking for money, that gets a stigma.

        As Tom points out to me, the only difference there is that we hold the beggar on the corner to be of no value. The rest of that list we value, but not the homeless person.

        That is an answer to my question. Right, wrong, or indifferent, it is an answer.

        I wonder if someone else has a different one. But I note that Tom’s is a powerful one.


  3. Spy Vs Spy Exum · May 7

    Truth is countercultural and at odds with prevailing trends, there it’s gotta be wrong (seemingly). Your words here are plain and simple!


  4. T. F. Thompson · May 8

    A vagrant, bum, crazy, hobo, crack-head, junkie, druggie, and other little pet names are labels to debase people. This should not happen if you are a Christian. God sees the value of all people. Remember, we are told to even love our enemies and the poor and homeless are certainly not even our enemies so then how much more should we love them? In essence, it means if the cost is too high then don’t be a Christian. Simply put: it is easy to talk a good game, but when it comes down to it we do not love all people as we claim.


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