Awesome encounters

“He was like an angel… on the outside he was a homeless man…”

Really. You gotta read this post! Heaven invades earth.

christianencourager

January 29th 2018

Wow so amazing….. again!

So this is my 2nd time going to this class called Resurrected Life Ministry. (It’s a Christian thing)

So last couple of days, I have been feeling really bad about harping on others. Sometimes, I get really careless and just spit things out of my mouth (not literally). I was criticizing others and pointing out faults /flaws and I saw that some of my relationships were broken because of this. So I was repenting before the Lord. Especially on Sunday morning. And since then, I have been feeling bad about it even today, (today is Monday) So I had this class that I do on Mondays at Resurrected Life Ministries. It is a Christian Class. So the Instructor today said, (out of the blue) that our homework is to “bless others.” So the way I was going to apply it was

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Jesus & Deuteronomy 15

Still considering matters regarding the “Reimagine Charity” and “Seeking Shalom” program our church plans to start presenting tomorrow night.  I posted about it yesterday.  And as I consider things, I keep hearing Jesus say, “The poor you always have with you…”.

All four Gospels tell of a woman anointing Jesus with expensive perfume, three of them depict a protest against it since the money could have been used for the poor instead.  Jesus retorts the protest saying the woman did a good thing, and slips into his retort a side comment about how there will always be poor people.  There will never be a time when we don’t have them in our midst.

This side comment is likely a quote/paraphrase of Deuteronomy 15:11 which falls in the midst of a chapter all about dealing with the poor – biblically speaking.  Since a quote from this passage is found on the lips of Jesus, it seems fair to me (though perhaps some would argue otherwise) that both the verse cited (Deut. 15:11) and the larger context in which it is found (basically all of chapter 15) are relevant to those of us desiring to heed Jesus’s words.  I will not exhaust my argument about that, but I will suggest that any who want to chop off that passage for whatever reason, must be prepared to use that same reasoning to carve up the rest of the Bible, and I expect that will come back to bite where you least expect it.

It is not necessary for me to exegete Deuteronomy 15 to make my point actually.  Even a cursory glance reveals that the chapter is dealing with Sabbath matters in almost Jubilee fashion.  In fact, the chapter appears to resonate richly with Leviticus 25, and thus in turn Isaiah 62.  In these resonating passages the poor are handled with care.  Their debts forgiven; the slaves are set free, and this characterizes “the Lord’s favor”.  So with all that overwhelming resonance powerfully coloring the passage cited, it should be clear that in God’s economy, the one he envisions for his people, the world will be ordered very differently than American capitalism!

But also, even a cursory glance demonstrates that in this chapter of all biblical chapters where one would think it might come up, there is absolutely no mention or concern that your giving to the poor, your care for the poor, your forgiveness of their debts, or whatever… should be done wisely so as to avoid “enabling” the poor to remain poor.  In fact, according to verse 11, it is expected that they will always remain in our midst!

Now… I am just spit-balling with biblical principles here when I suggest that we not worry about the effect our alms have on the poor.  Rather, according to Deuteronomy 15:7, I need to be concerned about the state of my own heart when I do this giving!  It is my giving heart that comes in for scrutiny, not the “effectiveness” of the giving.

Seriously, go look at it.

And here I am calling into question the hearts of those who think we need to revamp our giving in order to be “effective” with it.

Just what is meant by “effective”?

The slogan being touted in the newest series says: “Stop meeting needs; start seeking Shalom”.

Somehow these authors are driving a wedge between the two that should not be there.  Again, go look at Deuteronomy 15.  The text there very strongly directs God’s people to meet the needs of the poor.  Does this mean God is against Shalom?  He says, “The poor will always inhabit the land”, and Jesus says, “The poor you will always have with you”.  So somehow, getting everybody rich and independent is a misguided goal and does not actually achieve (or even aim at) Shalom.  Therefore, using biblical principles, the opposite of poverty is not Shalom!

Hmmm…

Who knew?

I am not against seeking Shalom.  I am all for it, but it appears that doing “effective” poverty relief is not the way there.  It is important to have our hearts right – you know… not withholding our gift and lending because we fear it will turn out in vain.  And on the contrary, it appears we are neglecting Jubilee!  And Jubilee subverts capitalism hardcore!

So, just using biblical principles here, it seems we should aim at debt forgiveness rather than “effective” poverty relief.  We should aim at Jubilee, “the year of the Lord’s favor” rather than capitalism, we should aim at getting our own hearts right rather than worrying about getting our money back – or more bang for our buck!  And this, I suggest, is what the Jerusalem church (see Acts 2-4) believes they are fulfilling when they sell everything they own and give it all to the church where no one goes in any need!

How’s that for biblical principles?

I kinda don’t expect Corbett and Fikkert (and friends) to take our discussion in this direction with their “Reimagine Charity” and “Seeking Shalom” program.

But of course, I will give them a chance to go there before I argue otherwise.

 

Overthinking Charity & Poverty (and Then Selling It to The Church)

So.. I suddenly am made aware, Sunday, that a new 6-week video course is being offered to our church members on Wednesday nights that intends to make us “Reimagine Charity”.  We watched a short promo video in the assembly in which, sure enough, the concern is raised whether our alms giving is “effective” or not.  A new catch phrase I hear in it says: Stop Meeting Needs; Start Seeking Shalom.  Another says: The opposite of poverty is not wealth; it’s shalom.  These slogans will suffice for this post.

I quickly found out that in order to participate in this Wednesday night class, I will need to pay a $25 fee.  Apparently that is the rate for an individual as it is divided up at my church.  If I take it on my own, on line, I will pay $129.  Thus, the information about the program is limited.  I tried to research it for myself, but I cannot find a straightforward overview or review of it which reveals the gist of its pertinent content for free.

But I did find that, among all the contributors who developed the program, our old friends Corbett and Fikkert are back.  These are the guys who brought us the book When Helping Hurts.  For those few readers who follow this blog, you surely know I have little respect for that book, and I deal with the damage it has done to the church in my town every day for most of the last decade.

TO BE FAIR, I have not read, watched, or participated in the Seeking Shalom/Reimagine Charity program.

THEREFORE, I am not qualified to be a true critic of it.

BUT, I already have my suspicions.

I am troubled that there seems to be yet another, shiny/new book and/or program that calls into question our giving, which is the natural thing for a heart grateful to Jesus to do.  Yes, I said “yet another”.  This is more of the same old, same old dressed up in new clothes.  Yes, I have heard before about undergirding theological concepts making us think deeper than we did before.  (I am not against that part actually.)  Yes, I have heard that so much of our “help” turns out to be “enabling” the problem rather than fixing it.  Yes, I have heard that such “help” makes people dependent and causes them to lose their dignity.  Yes, I recall being warned about getting a “savior complex”.  And yes, I have heard about “biblical principles” that we need to guide us as we finally get it right this time.

So, yeah… This isn’t actually new.  It sounds new.  Feels new.  Looks new.  But actually, it’s the same old pig in different lipstick.  And if it didn’t work last time (after all, When Helping Hurts was published in the summer of 2009), what makes you think it’s going to finally work this time???

Didn’t Jesus say:  “You will always have the poor with you…”?

Yeah, I know the context of his observation doesn’t settle all questions, but nevertheless, it is a bell you can’t un-ring.  He did say it.  So what makes you think you will finally end poverty?  Or outsmart Jesus?

My first reaction is very cynical.  I am troubled that I am spending $25 for a Bible class at church.  Shouldn’t all the classes be free?  And when it comes to a class about charity, why am I paying money to the program that could have been given to the poor?  (Oh… Now you think I am misusing the context of Jesus’s statement?)  Yeah, this money could have been used to anoint Jesus for burial or for the poor, but instead it is being used to enable Corbett and Fikkert and friends to cause me to question and second-guess my alms giving!  And I will stop short of saying these guys have got rich off it, but they have made a career out of it over the past decade!

Secondly, I note that NOWHERE in the Bible is there even a sermon, a poem, and prophecy, an epistle, or a prayer outlining the dangers of giving – or of the ineffectiveness of giving unwisely.  No warnings about doing it wrong anywhere in there.  All these theologies and biblical principles have to be carefully stitched together with your fears in order for it to sell.  And I gotta say, SELLING the idea that there is something wrong with giving (or with the manner of giving) to the poor is a rich person’s game.  Only the rich could dream that up!  And what does Jesus say about rich people getting into the Kingdom of God???  He says it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle!!!   So this whole idea likely does NOT originate from the Kingdom of God at all.

Yeah, and we live in conservative, Republican country.  What little bit of us is left over, Jesus can have, but our hearts and minds belong to Fox News and tax breaks.  We subtly equate being healthy and whole with being rich and independent.  Those are American ideals, not biblical ideals.  I can show you prophecies, poems, sermons, and so forth all through the Bible that warn, shun, and judge the rich for not giving and caring for the poor.  But I can’t find a single morsel of a biblical principle that says when I give to the poor, I should be wary that it might backfire.

So, yeah.  I am suspicious.  But I will go (as often as I can) to give this program a chance.  I will fork up the $25 to get my chance to participate.  And, I will even hope I am mistaken about my suspicions.  I would like to be pleasantly surprised!  But I will also go expecting to be the lone voice for Jesus in a program of selling out the poor for a pair of sandals.  The more hifalutin “theology” and “biblical principles” all worked out by redefinitions of poverty and shalom and other word games the thicker the fog in which this kind of stuff gets justified.  And then it is quite easy to SELL all this overthinking to people who are willing to part with their money for anything as long as it doesn’t wind up in the hands of the poor who would use it for something we might not like.

Yeah… “Stop meeting needs; start seeking shalom”.  That sounds just like the Jesus I read about in my Gospels.  Find the page where he feeds the 5000 and tear it out!  Never happened.  Not really.  No, no, no…  What St. Matthew meant to write was that he charged $25 and preached a sermon saying: Feed a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, and you make him into a stable, independent American worthy of God’s love and Jesus’s admiration.

Yeah… That’s it…

It’s Okay… The Government Will Get It

Ever go out to eat at a nice sit-down restaurant and spill a drink?  A wait-staff comes running to clean it up, just as you bend down to gather it.  And what does the waiter say? ” Don’t worry about that; I’ll have the busboy get it.”

Sound familiar???

Yeah… And so here’s an irony – actually layers of irony:

My conservative voting, “Big Government” -hating, brothers and sisters drive to worship Sunday in and Sunday out, right past beggars, bums, and prophets on every other street corner, and think: It’s okay… The government will get it….

(Okay, I know I am overly simplifying it, but the point still holds.)

Yeah, I read about it in the papers all the time.  The 34th Street district calls cops to run off the vagrants, and it makes the news!

But remember what Jesus tells his disciples at the feeding of the 5000?  “YOU give them something to eat” (Mark 6:37).  Jesus has wanted to feed the world through his disciples in that miraculous way ever since.  Today that is the job of the church, but the “church” thinks she is an exclusive social club instead, with an army of wait staffers that include secular government and charitable organizations who will “get it” cleaned up in a jiffy so we don’t have to look at it anymore.

Reminds me of Tony Campolo’s tale of dining in a restaurant in Port Au Prince, Haiti, and seeing the starving children pressed up against the window watching him eat, and a waiter comes to apologize and turn the blinds.

No.  Church.  YOU are the wait staff in the world.  And the Matthew-25 Jesus is out there in the  streets (the stranger), he is hungry, cold, wet, sick, and tired.  The Revelation-3 Jesus (same Lord, btw) is knocking at YOUR door today.  “Behold! I stand at the door and knock.  If you open up, I will come in and eat with you!” (Rev. 3:20).

Quick, Church.  It is time to repent!  Look.  There are some water jars there, start pouring them into cups, and watch as the water that went into them comes pouring out as wine for the wedding!  This is your job.  Not someone else’s!  Neither the “Big Government” nor the 501c3’s can host THIS party of the ages!  Only YOU.  Only YOU can fulfill this task!

 

Day 270: Life Under an Overpass

Here’s a touching story that will stretch your imagination, I think.

365 Church Planter

Last night I joined Matt, Renee, and around 50 other concerned citizens of Lexington for a survey of homelessness within the city.

Each year cities across the nation collect data on the size and scope of homelessness in America. So armed with care packs and clip boards, we broke into teams of 4-6 with a mission to collect important data on Lexington’s homeless population, offer information for available resources, and hand out supplies.

Each team was given locations within the city where homeless individuals and families have been seen in the past. There was little certainty that people would be at these locations, only a possibility based on prior reports.

Our team met a homeless couple at our very first location.

As we approached, it was immediately apparent that we had come across someone’s camp. A well-worn path led below an overpass that extended over train tracks. Discarded debris and…

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Does Your Preacher Preach Like Jesus?

In a recent post, I made the following remarks:

…if you go look at those gospel accounts, I mean really look and watch this Jesus you so admire and orient your life toward, you will find crowds of hurting, needy people pressing in on him everywhere he goes!

Does that sound like your church???

Does that sound like you???

I didn’t get much response to it, but it seems like a fair question to me.  Your “church” claims, by virtue of calling itself a church, to be the very Body of Christ.  Since we know from the Scriptures what he behaves like, and the response that elicits, this discrepancy between the two should be alarming.  Yet no one I know even raises an eyebrow at the sight of a lock on the church-house door with an accompanying ADT sign in the flower bed.  Shoot, post a “No Trespassing/No Loitering” sign while you’re at it, and none of the “Christians” will see even the slightest inconsistency!

But really, it’s not just a matter of our actions; our preaching is off too.  Who preaches like Jesus (or St. Paul or St. Peter, for that matter)?  St. Mark (and the other Gospel writers) tells us Jesus speaks with AUTHORITY, and not like the Scribes.  Paul’s preaching sparks riots in Ephesus and gets him thrown in jail over and over again!  Peter preaches in miraculous tongues!  Oh, and he goes to jail too.

Who does your preacher preach like?

Scribes?

Jesus brings a new world order – which makes his actions and his words REVOLUTIONARY.  This can be a bit confusing since he is not, in the ultimate sense, a rebel.  No, on the contrary, he is the KING, and not a rebel at all.  But that is in the final analysis, for certainly his actions and words buck the system set up by those who appear to be in charge.

Because of this, I prefer to call Jesus a REVOLUTIONARY revolutionary.  This in contrast to a revolutionary’s revolutionary.  (I hope you see the difference.)

So, you see, the Scribes, whatever else we might rightly say about them, support the status quo.  Jesus, and friends, most certainly do NOT.  But these days, by far, most of our pastors, preachers, and religious leaders support the system that is screwing up God’s good creation and screwing little people in the process.

Remember the sermon Gunnery Sergeant Hartman delivers to his Marines upon completing basic training in the movie Full Metal Jacket?  It’s the kind of speech meant to inspire young men to lay down their lives in the fight ahead of them.  Check it out:

Today, you people are no longer maggots. Today, you are Marines. You’re part of a brotherhood. From now on until the day you die, wherever you are, every Marine is your brother. Most of you will go to Vietnam. Some of you will not come back. But always remember this: Marines die. That’s what we’re here for. But the Marine Corps lives forever. And that means YOU live forever.

Or, perhaps you recall Lt. Col. Hal Moore’s sermon in the movie We Were Soldiers.  Again, words meant to inspire young men to lay down their lives in the fight they faced in Vietnam.  Check it out:

q=We+Were+Soldiers+movie+speech&view=detail&mid=41A7368134E9F10B502041A7368134E9F10B5020&FORM=VIRE

Lest you think I am suggesting Jesus endorses these sermons, let me be clear; I am NOT.  But I do expect you to notice the difference between the preaching you hear at “church” Sunday in and Sunday out and these fine examples of speeches that rally the troops for battle.  The urgency to challenge the status quo is only one aspect of my point, but it is both an important aspect and an obvious one.

Jesus is not arming his troops with swords or M-16s.  This should be overly obvious, but he is still arming them, equipping them (as St. Paul would say) for a battle nonetheless.  Jesus speaks with AUTHORITY, but also speaks in parables that are hard to understand.  And even when his own disciples ask him for the meaning of these coded messages, Jesus declares that some will understand and others will not.  Some are in; others are out!  He does not make a sales pitch; he does not offer good customer service; he does not give namby-pamby psycho-babble, seeker-friendly advice, or gimmicks like coffee and lattes in the lobby!  On the contrary, he insists that unless you take up your cross and follow, you are not his disciple!

Does your preacher preach like that?

Or does he support your status quo and try to make you feel good about yourself as you are?

I see a lot of support for the status quo out there, and I hear it in our sermons, read it in the coffee-table Christianity, find it in the websites, and treasure it in the handsome, leather-bound purpose driven journal that seems to accompany all this crap while my street friends freeze another night in the cold of this “Christian” town.

Think about it.

Partnership

Friends are so important.  And I have so few.  So I can only understate how pleased I am to have a partnership with Agent Mamma DJ.

Agent MDJ seems so excited about Fat Beggars School of Prophets and the key notion that the church should recognize Jesus in the street homeless and invite him in to party (and conversely that in finding Jesus in the poor, we must celebrate him in them so that they find him in them as well).  Stated as such, it is a rather simple thing, but so few catch on to it.  And so it pleases me to have a partner who appreciates it and honors it as the goal of our work.

But the really uplifting part, the part that is so refreshing and even surprising, is how that having such a partner means the mission never sleeps.  Hearts and minds are stirred and finding empowerment in the Holy Spirit even when I am not around – even when I am not working on it, even when I am asleep.  It’s not all on my shoulders any more.  I have a partner sharing the load.

And not only sharing the load, but the joy.  And I am pleasantly surprised nearly every other day by fresh ideas, energy, and plans that did not depend on me in the slightest!  For instance Agent MDJ introduced me to Agent V the other day who also has caught the vision.  And Agent V, it turns out, is friends with one of the associate pastors at Bacon Heights Baptist – a church that has a good reputation on the streets for the help they give.  This fact prompted me to write a thank you note to that church a while back, and now Agent V seems to hold the potential to link FBSOP with this exciting church – maybe lending legitimacy to our cause!

See this link for the story of how I discovered Bacon Heights’s street cred here:

https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2017/03/18/plunged-again/

But then today, Agent MDJ contacted me to say she has a friend giving her a sizable allotment of tobacco with which she and Agent V plan to roll a bunch of cigarettes to pass out on the streets as we break the ice and share Jesus with people.  And I gotta say, I love that.  It’s humble people of humble means piecing together surprise gifts of love to share with other needy people as a way to encourage, celebrate, and love one another.

Ain’t got no money, hardly, but finding ways to share the love, and feeling the excitement almost like planning a surprise birthday party for a friend.  A labor of love, and all from scratch.  And none of it was my idea, nor is it dependent on me.  A mysterious wind blowing fresh life into Fat Beggars!

Praise God!

When The Homeless Come To Stay With You…

First, the mess:

Ya know?  When you invite Jesus (the Matthew-25 Jesus) into your home, it is only appropriate to feed him (see Abe and Sarah in Gen. 18).  But the thing is… feeding guests always creates a mess.  Dishes to wash, leftovers to put up, and often enough, food bits wind up all over the floor – especially when feeding the uncivilized.  In my case, that generally means toddlers flinging food off their high chairs, getting it in their hair, all over their clothes and so forth.  However, lots of people dribble food and drink down their shirt, get sauce from their fingers all over the chair, the table, the doorknob.

(Hosting a Super Bowl party?  Think your drunk guests won’t get wing sauce on the TV remote?)

Then there is the bathroom.  Some people just never flush.  Oh my, that is a joy!  Some are incontinent and make a mess like that right in their pants.  And sure enough, the toddlers and the infant always do that, but I have experienced it with adults too, and that introduces the extra added dimension of guarding one’s dignity, if they still have any.  And some of them can’t seem to aim their business in the commode at all.

But then there are the truly bizarre messes that defy any explanation.  Here’s a juicy one – boogers!  Why would I ever find boogers smeared on the wall next to the bed?  Well, if I say the word “toddlers” it begins to help explain, but what if I say “adult”???

The fact of the matter is… when Jesus comes into the house, he flips the tables!  Seriously, read your gospels.  And the funny thing that you don’t laugh about is how this is referred to as “cleansing the temple”!  Why on earth do we go to church and expect Jesus to be there (on the one hand) but to just endorse our way of ordering the place (on the other)?  Why is it that we invite Jesus into our hearts, but not into our home?  Is that because if we take him at his word that he is that stranger (that needy person, that sojourner, that orphan) that we rightly fear the mess he will bring with him???

Yes, if you want Jesus in your life, it’s gonna cost ya!  Your life is not your own!  And that means your home too!

Second, the Party:

But there is a JOY set before him, for which he endures the cross (Heb. 12:2).  Yeah, he endures that awful cross for the JOY set before him!  The cross!  That rugged cross they nailed him to, and hoisted him up naked before the jeering crowds, where the splinters snagged in the lashes from the whip as he took leverage from the nails so that he could pull himself up to take a breath, with which he forgave his tormenters… yeah… THAT CROSS!

Makes you wanna ask… don’t it?  What JOY is worth all that???

Yeah, if the endurance is that tough, it makes me wanna know… WHAT JOY IS WORTH ALL THAT???

Well, if he endures that cross for that JOY, surely you and I can endure some mess for the JOY of celebrating Jesus at our table dining with us, sleeping in our guest room, and finally accepting the invitation to come into our hearts!

How’s that for a bit of perspective?

Yeah!  And there is JOY in that party.  I don’t likely have to convince you of the JOY of the infant smiling at me when I hold her in my arms and make funny faces and funny voices.  I get all googoo with baby talk and find deep, rich JOY in her affection, even though she craps in her little pants as I hold her.  The JOY is worth it!  Same goes for the toddlers!

Oh, but those homeless bums we let in… what about them?

Yeah, I have to work hard to convince you there is JOY in sharing with them.

And I won’t lie.  Some of them will lie and manipulate and steal from you as you make yourself vulnerable.  But none of that makes them even the slightest less valuable to Jesus – or to those who claim to belong to him.  And besides, not only do you have sin in your own life (for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23)), but such issues are signs, signals to us who care, that these souls have been deeply damaged on their journey(s) through this world and need the healing touch of Jesus.

But all of that is really a bunny-trail chase when the part I really want you to know is the JOY of celebrating Jesus in and amid such people.  And I must confess, there is a mystery there that cannot be completely explicated this side of experiencing it.  We can analyze it only so much.  There is a mist of mystery shrouding it, but it’s not all that different from the JOY had holding that infant either, though she crap in her diaper, and though the smell when opening it up tests my gag reflex every time.  It’s amazing how the JOY is worth it actually, and how hardly anyone notices the cost once they have shared in this JOY!  And I don’t expect her to get over it before I love her, nor do I expect she will stop this awful behavior anytime in the next year.  In fact, I am committed to shaping her character and behavior over the course of at least the next eighteen years.  So why the suddenly high standards for the adults who are so deeply damaged by addiction and life on the streets?  Those are impossible standards that Jesus never endorses.

And anyway, if you go look at those gospel accounts, I mean really look and watch this Jesus you so admire and orient your life toward, you will find crowds of hurting, needy people pressing in on him everywhere he goes!

Does that sound like your church???

Does that sound like you???

Is that a feature of your home???

Why not?

Jesus parties with such lowly people as this purposefully while you look down your nose at them – and that is why not.

It’s time to repent.  The Kingdom of God is at hand.  You don’t wanna miss it.

…For The Children

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!!!  DON’T DO DRUGS!!!

My plea will likely fall on deaf ears, I know.  Talking to drug addicts about quitting is like talking to a church about finally opening its door to Jesus.  I may as well talk to a stone wall.  No one listens.  But one of the more painful things about my job (foster parenting) is picking the child up after the court appointed visit with the parents.  The heart strings between mother and child stretch out the door, and there is no explaining to the child, no consoling, no amount of reason that makes sense of it or makes it okay.

All I have is this pitiful little plea.

I know a little weed seems so harmless.  I tried it myself three or four hundred times.  But whatever other “good” reasons you may think you have for smoking a little joint, it won’t matter to your child how good you thought it was when I show up to take her back to my place after your one (or two) hour supervised visit every week.  And no matter how good the high, it won’t soothe that heartache which will leave its mark on that precious little heart for life.

PLEASE.  Don’t do drugs.  For the children, put that behind you now, grow up, and LOVE your kids.

The Parable of The Charitable Rich Lady & The Street Prophet

Once upon a time, there was this rich lady who cared sincerely for the poor and homeless in her community.  She became a major donor to three different charitable organizations, served on the board of directors of one of them, and volunteered her time serving in a local soup kitchen.  Her devotion to “helping” the poor was clearly demonstrated, her reputation solid, and she was beloved by many.

For years, she listened to and heeded the sage advice of the executive director of the Charitable Trust Foundation, who insisted that it is unwise to give any amount of money to the poor directly.  He told her the money she gave to the poor would only “enable” addiction and other bad habits.  He said the wise giving option would be to donate to the Charitable Trust Foundation instead, and that the funds would be distributed with equity.  Even as a woman of faith, she believed this advice and heeded it as if it were Gospel truth.

For years, this charitable rich lady drove right past beggars on street corners on her way to work, to church, to play bridge or mahjong with her church friends or with the ladies from the Women’s Community Council – sometimes even as she was on her way to volunteer at the soup kitchen.  She would see people milling around in the rain or cold wind, and yet she felt smug that she was doing her part to help them.  It didn’t occur to her that she might do things differently or that even with million dollar budgets, the Charitable Trust Foundation had not in fact even come close to eradicating poverty.  It did not occur to her that despite the exorbitant salary the executive director drew, nor the purchase of massive office space and fleet of vehicles, that she was “enabling” him instead of the poor.

But then one night, as the charitable rich lady was the last one to lock up and leave the soup kitchen after volunteering, she encountered a homeless street prophet on the parking lot who called all of this into question.  And as she drove home after that conversation, she felt her rebuttals to his remarks grow stale.  In fact, they seemed hollow, vain, and self serving.

She didn’t know what to do.  She spent many hours in private thought on the matter, but sensed she was trapped.  She had no idea how to change direction.  How do you repent from this?  If she pulled out all her donations and service, that would not improve a thing.  If she criticized the policies and procedures, she would not have a better option to offer – and anyway, the executive director was the “expert”, not her.  What could she do?

She prayed on it for weeks, but continued her normal routines – spiritually troubled, but not convinced she should stop.  She read her Bible with new vigor.  Sure enough, she saw that Jesus instructs us to “give to all who ask” and that Mother Mary’s prayer claimed that God would “fill the hungry with good things and send the rich away empty”!  These observations did not trouble her nearly as much as Jesus instructing a rich man to sell all he had, give it to the poor and come follow him!  He even went on to tell his disciples that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!  She began to wonder if her own wealth offended God.

But then she noticed a proverb that instructs us to give hard liquor and booze to the dying and destitute to ease their pain, and the whole idea of “enabling” just crumbled under its own weight.  She began to feel that she had been deceived!  Deceived by her wealth, by her colleagues, and by her church.

But still… she wondered:  What do I do?

Then came another night when she was the last to lock up and leave the soup kitchen, and again she bumped into the prophet.  This time she humbled herself and asked his advice.  She actually asked and listened to a homeless man tell her what to do.  And the next day, she set out with a new kind of plan.

The charitable rich lady found a homeless woman sitting at a table eating alone in the soup kitchen.  She took a plate and joined her.  As they ate, she traded names with the woman and learned about her personal experiences living on the streets.  She found out the homeless woman had a college degree, but had lost her job, her marriage, and her kids.  In the course of losing so much, she had become addicted to street drugs.

That very night, the charitable rich lady invited the homeless woman to come stay in her fine custom home with it’s spare room.  There the woman got a nice bubble bath and shared in all the self-pampering blessings the rich lady had to offer.  She showed her a secluded place in the back patio where she could smoke cigarettes or have some private moments in prayer.  But other than that, she opened her home and her time to this new friend.

But then when the charitable rich lady went to work the next day, she took the homeless woman with her.  The rich lady was boss at the office, and so she put the homeless woman to work answering the phones, making copies and filing.

Then the next day, she took the homeless woman with her to play bridge and mahjong.  This move startled all her rich friends, but they allowed it; after all, they knew their friend to be quite charitable.  And despite the social awkwardness, the other ladies began to take interest in the homeless woman.

Then, the next Sunday, the rich lady took her new friend with her to church to worship Jesus together.  And sure enough, the homeless woman sang her heart out!  The rich lady sensed Jesus next to her, and for a moment, she even saw him with her own eyes in the homeless woman as she worshiped.  And she sensed that she was blessed by God with a new blessing and a new life.  She had repented.

Suddenly the rich lady realized that the thing homeless people need, by definition, is a HOME.  And she began to look at them as if they were Jesus himself – the thing the prophet told her to do.  And paradoxically, she began to help form Jesus in her street friends as well.  And she did not use her wealth to insulate herself from poverty anymore, but to invade poverty at a very sacrificial and personal level.

It wasn’t always a smooth road.  The homeless woman actually stole a diamond bracelet from the rich lady once, and it caused a lot of mistrust.  But the rich lady confronted her, and when she confessed it, she forgave the sin.  And after that, the rich lady and the homeless woman became even deeper friends, and the rich lady learned to loosen her grip on her diamonds and hold closer to Jesus.

And eventually, the executive director himself learned to see things differently.  And he took in a homeless man at his home.  And then even the pastor at the local church did it.  And after a while, all the homeless of that town disappeared from the streets, and reappeared in “My Father’s House, where there are many mansions”!