Good Guys and Bad Guys

Hard Times Ministries

Aren’t we such good guys when we tell the story of the Good Samaritan? We love to point out the hypocrisy of the clergy in this parable and reflect on how we show compassion for people.

Yet, this past Saturday, here was a man around 40 years old.  He was ‘passed out’ and bleeding profusely from his nose and head and lying in the street.  Who knows if he was severely injured, drunk or on drugs or a combination of all?

The point is this: no one wants to stop and help these bums, drunks or and druggies.

We look down on this ‘trash’ as the bad guys, while we strut around as the good guys.  After all, we aren’t down in the street like some stray dog as a mark of road kill.

It ends up that I knew this man.  He is a neighbor of mine who suffers…

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Lost Verses From Matthew’s Gospel Found!!!

This just in…

It is always a momentous occasion when ancient manuscripts of Scripture are unearthed!  The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is a fine example, and the tremendous impact such discoveries have on scholarship and church doctrine alike can be felt for generations.  So it is with great excitement that I announce the discovery of a previously lost verse from Matthew’s Gospel in the 25th chapter.

The discovery is most providential.  Miraculous, really.  Almost as dramatic as plucking a manuscript from the fireplace as it was almost used for kindling!  The part that makes this so dramatic is that the discovery was made in a church in Lubbock, Texas!  Yes!  Lubbock.  You read me correctly!

Even more interesting is how staunch this particular church is about the authority of Scripture.  The heritage this group belongs to is known as The American Restoration Movement which seeks to restore the church of the New Testament by revering the New Testament vis-à-vis the church with the same kind of authority as the nation of the United States vis-à-vis the Constitution.  Only things strictly addressed in the New Testament could be authorized in this church, making it beholding only to the Word of God and no man-made traditions or teaching.

Thus, when the people of this church find heretofore unknown passages of Scripture, you can bet your eternal judgment their inclusion of such texts passes the strictest verification processes both humanly and divinely possible.  Yes.  God really meant for us to have this guidance!


In the famous passage reproduced below, find the traditional rendering of the ancient texts (as translated in the English Standard Version) in standard black color font.  The newly discovered verse is provided in red color bold font for easy distinction.  Commentary to follow.

Matthew 25:31-46 English Standard Version (ESV)

The Final Judgment

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me .’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me EXCEPT IN THE CASE OF “CHURCH BUMS”, FOR IN THOSE CASES, YOU ARE EXPECTED TO JUDGE THE HEARTS OF THOSE SUPPOSEDLY IN NEED AND DETERMINE IF THE FOOD, DRINK, OR HOSPITALITY WOULD GO TO WASTE ON THE UNDESERVING OR EVEN ENABLE POOR CHOICES AND BAD BEHAVIORS OF ADDICTS AND DIMWITS ALIKE.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”


As you can surely detect, there can be no doubt the addition of the newly found text fits perfectly with the style, form, and rhetoric of the pericope in which it is found.  Form critics and rhetoricians be damned; they represent liberal thinking which hijacked proper scholarship more than 200 years ago.  Fact is, the style, form, and rhetoric of the newly found verse fits perfectly with that holy grail of conservative criticism – COMMON SENSE!  Common sense plainly tells us that “church bums” take advantage of churches and charities and often return again and again for their handouts, which is a violation of good stewardship.

As long as we are damning liberal scholarship anyway, let us also damn the text critics who do not find this passage in either the most ancient manuscripts – or any of the later ones either for that matter!  The fact is, we searched our hearts, analyzed effective and non-effective charity along with a sense of “seeking Shalom” by a method we call “stop meeting needs”, and it is clear to us that even if Matthew failed to write it like this, the Holy Spirit that indwells our hearts testifies to us that this is what Jesus meant to say!  Thus, though you won’t find this verse unearthed in any archeology dig, (most of those scholars are liberals too), you do find it unearthed in our hearts!  And that is where God’s law is supposed to be written anyway.

Homeless in winter at age 88

Just read it…
…and pray…


Today, I was blessed to meet a gentleman who is 88 years of age. He has been staying with us for a bit, clients told me he was abused by other residents at another place.
I could not believe this lovely senior citizen has been treated so badly, and with so much disregard. I promised him we are going to get him into an apartment, ASAP.
Then we are going to demand from every level of authority in the City of Windsor, Ontario and their funded/grant recipient agencies that a suitable housing apartment be found for him. SHAME, SHAME, SHAME on everyone who will treat an Elder so badly.Homeless in Windsor in Winter at age 88

I searched for him online and I found he was a member of his band council for many, many years. I printed the history of Chippewas of Nawash Band, and gave him a copy.
At first, he was not certain he…

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I Am Nobody Special (part II)

I am known as one who does not compromise.  I am stubborn and difficult.  I have an answer for everything (it seems).

What follows is my resume of shame:

Though these things are from my distant past, I once got arrested for theft.  I have been stoned many times (not the same as St. Paul).  I have been drunk to the point of throwing up and passing out more times than I can count.  I cannot remember all the ugly things I have done.

I “murdered” a woman once.

Well, not the kind of murder they put you in jail for, but one of the worst sins (personal failures) I recall (that makes me wince to think about to this day) is when I tried to impress a couple of my friends as we drove slowly past a woman walking along the road with two or three grocery bags, and I pointed out how fat and ugly she was in my pathetic effort to get a cheap laugh.

Another one that makes me cringe was when I set up a drug deal with a young couple one night in their living room as the father shewed the young children out so we could conduct “grown up business”.  By the time he said that, I was ready to die.  I felt so horrible about myself after that.

I might not be the chief of all sinners, but I once was fairly competitive for that title.

In more recent years…

Though I was accepted into a top ranked seminary where the instructors published nearly 25% of the books I studied as an undergrad, I could not raise the money to attend.  So I began graduate work at a local university, and did good work there at first, but then flunked out when it became apparent that I would not be attending law school – which had been the real dream.

I made the short list for a preaching ministry job in Connecticut that wanted me for my street ministry experience, but they turned me down when the found out my (then) wife announced she was agnostic.

I have been “shipwrecked and left for dead”.

Well, okay, let’s say it was divorce.  And I became morbidly depressed for about three years afterward, and made all kinds of mistakes and personal failures.

I applied to join a mission group setting up an “intentional community” house down on 65th Drive, a street legendary for gunfire, murders, prostitution, drug deals, and child abuse in the city of Lubbock – the same street to which I had already spent 3 years taking ministry.  But when the pastor at the church heard someone gossip that I don’t hold traditional views about HELL, he suddenly asked all the applicants to supply statements of faith.  Mine did not make the cut, and I was sent away unwanted.

Not only that, but I was in the running for a chaplain job at a local feeding ministry that promised to pay next to nothing, and I made it to the third interview, as it seemed the hiring staff was excited by my application until one interviewer asked if I would give money to a beggar.  I answered “YES” quoting Jesus in Luke 6:30, when suddenly the interview came to a close.  Two days later, I got a call that regretted to inform me that even though there were no other applicants, they wanted to keep searching for someone who was “the right fit”.

I tried to set up an appointment with a shepherd at one of the major churches in town to discuss my concerns about the homeless sleeping around their doors at night, and when I arrived, this pastor let me sit in the lobby with half a dozen secretaries for almost an hour before he finally buzzed the receptionist to tell me that he was too busy to talk to me.

I got openly shunned, though not kicked out, of one church.  I got kicked out of another, and the head guy from the board of directors actually got up the Sunday afterward to read a letter to the congregation of mostly homeless people outlining how I am now banned from that facility.  They have not repented of that in nearly 5 years, and I am still on the outs.

I have devoted my life to Jesus and to the church.  I have risked my life and safety too many times to count in service to this Kingdom Cause.  I have spent dozens, if not hundreds, of nights outside in the heat, the cold, the wet and in dangerous parts of town sharing worship with poor and homeless people.  I was part of a group that even stopped a murder with a communion service one night which you can find featured in a post on this blog.  But I work for the church that does not want me, does not listen to me, and resists me at nearly every turn.

( See the communion vs. murder post here: )

I was not shunned, kicked out, turned down, or sent away for smoking, drinking, cussing, fornicating, looking at porn, or even for greed.  I was sent away for sticking up for the poor, for speaking out for the poor, and for insisting they be included in the goodies that church life has to offer.  But that was labeled as being “divisive” so that kicking me out would seem legit.  And the crazy thing is that even some of the poor folx I advocate for don’t like me!

This is my reputation.  This is my real resume.

I will never forget how they gathered us incoming Freshmen Bible students at ACU way back when, and gave a banquet for us.  The featured speaker that night was Eddie Sharp, a preacher I never knew before, and really not since either.  But I recall how he told us it was his task to talk us out of the decision we had made.  He warned us that the job would be thankless, low pay/no pay, hard, and fraught with discouragement. And I have been discouraged.  I have been beat down.  I have felt the futility of my calling as so very few find my words and work to be worthwhile, helpful, or good.

This is my resume of shame.

I am nobody special.  I cannot imagine an interview where this would get me hired.

What will God do with that?

That is the question.  But then what does he do with a crucified Jew-boy, a few fishermen, tax collectors, and sinners the world holds beneath its contempt and then with a headhunter harassing them named Saul?

I strongly doubt that pointing out that question will get me hired anywhere, actually, but it is the real question nonetheless.


I Am Nobody Special

I am not special.

I am not important.

I am not famous.  I have very few important friends.

I am a kook by any conventional measure.

I do not have a Ph.D.  I do not have a doctorate of any kind.  Though I have a Bible degree, and though I graduated at the top of my class, I did not finish my graduate work.

I do not lead a church.  I am not a pastor, elder, bishop or deacon.  Though I volunteer my services as I am able, I am not asked to lead groups or teach (except for children’s classes).  I have not published any books (best sellers or otherwise).

I do not head up a charitable organization.  I am not on the board of directors of any organizations currently in operation.  I am not a featured speaker or lecturer.  I am not considered an authority by anyone.

I am rich (sure) among poor people, but I am poor among the rich.  I do not belong to any prestigious organizations.  No country club membership.  I am the president of nothing.  I don’t shop at high end stores.  I don’t use credit cards.  I drive a humble Nissan.

There is no conventional, good reason to read what I write or listen to what I say.  My words will not earn you any money, respect, or admiration – at least not from people we typically admire.  On the contrary, there is every conventional, good reason not to read me or listen to what I say.  My words will likely cost you money, respect and admiration – at least from people we typically admire.

I am nobody special.  My friends are nobodies too.

I get no perks for being me or saying and doing what I say and do.  More often than not, I get tolerated.  Tolerated and sometimes shunned.

But I think I speak for Jesus.  And if you can show me where I am mistaken about that, you will do me a huge favor!  Because if I could change the message, I really think I could be pastor and sell books.  I really think I could rake in a living and get some respect.  And that sure would be nice.

But…  If it turns out that I really do speak for Jesus and that I am not mistaken about that, then whether I die and speak out in futility all my life and never see the benefit or whether those in earshot find conviction, God will have used a nobody to serve his Gospel message.  And in the Age to Come, the rewards will outweigh the costs in the present age.

Who Cares?


Everybody cares.

Well, okay, there are a few jerks out there who will openly tell you they don’t care.  Some of them will even ridicule you for caring.  But it’s amazing how much the “care” increases when you ask.  I mean people who drive right past a bum asking for spare change on a street corner as they head off to church will arrive there and raise their hand with the rest of the crowd when you ask “Who Cares?”.  Let’s call these folks jerks and novices.

But then there are those who really show concern and join a group – a ministry group, a class, or take in a lecture or read a book.  Some of these people join benevolent organizations and put in time and energy to raise money, raise awareness, and/or actually serve people by supplying actual goods and services.  Among those people, some go on to head up relief organizations and become professionals in the field.  Some of them go on to write books, give lectures, lead seminars and so on.  We will call these the experts.

Some other people find themselves simply moved deep in their hearts to care AND to do something.  These people may go on to join the ranks of volunteers and professionals, but a lot of them do not.  They simply feel called to do what they can.  Most of these folks give a few dollars when they have it to give, but for them even a few dollars can be a real sacrifice, since these folks are very nearly needy themselves (or may have experienced a season of neediness in their lives that left an impression on them).  A few of them, however, turn their calling into an exhausting ministry that may involve cooking, gathering blankets/clothes and distributing them, and the workload can become as heavy as a second fulltime job.  Let’s categorize these as the called.

If we wanted to, I am sure we could articulate at least a couple more categories of people here, but this should suffice for this post.  And except for the jerks I mention above, all the rest of these people, it seems, care.  Right?

Well, let me split a few hairs here, and then you decide.

Among those in the last paragraph, the called, most find giving to be its own reward.  They rarely get attention for their efforts, little help, and almost no cooperation with organizations or individuals.  In fact, the experts may very well shun them and say they have gone rogue.  The called get no paycheck, no donations (or precious few if they do), no speaking fees, no book sales or recognition.  They give simply out of the goodness of their hearts and often over the objections of others.

For those among the called, giving is typically sacrificial – sometimes deeply sacrificial.  Risks are taken.  Money given.  Strangers taken in.  Hitchhikers picked up.  Sometimes, perhaps often, when the called make themselves vulnerable to those to whom they are called, they get burned – robbed, burgled, assaulted, lied to, taken advantage of, and everything in between.  Sometimes these folks grow embittered by it all and stop answering their calling, but a few of them cannot imagine their lives any other way, and they “never learn”.  They might even feel foolish for living out their calling, and this sometimes ensures they keep their giving quiet, for speaking of it invites ridicule.  And anyway, as Jay Schadler on ABC News said back in the mid 1990’s when he hitchhiked across America, “It isn’t Cadillacs and fine sedans that pick you up on the side of the road; it’s jalopies and well-worn pick up trucks that do that”.

You likely haven’t heard of them.

The category I am calling experts is a broad one.  Many are simple volunteers, but you don’t volunteer long before you acquire a lot of uncommon and remarkable experiences that sooner or later you will likely be called upon to share at a seminar or maybe even on a TV camera.  So even though there may be varying degrees of expertise, I am going to lump them together, and anyway, volunteers answer to the executives and book writers.  They are all on the same team.

And these experts find it important to do things wisely and effectively.  For one thing, you really want to believe that the work you do makes a worthwhile difference, but for another, you need to impress others in order to fundraise and sell books.  The volunteers are trained to follow certain rules and policies intended to serve these purposes as well, and certainly the big shots that they answer to want to sell books and lead seminars and raise lots of money.

These experts tend to dream big.  And they do a lot.  They organize assets, people, budgets, resources and then mobilize them too.  In the process, real goods and services are offered to truly needy people, some of them on a grand scale.  And we should be thankful for every blessing bestowed on every needy person they serve.

Yet, the experts make it a point not to risk, or at least to minimize it.  A good deal of the wisdom they offer is devoted to risk-management.  They also make a point to call attention to themselves (and/or their organizations), otherwise how can they raise money or sell books?  They have advertising concerns, bureaucratic concerns, safety and risk-management concerns, and self-promotion concerns jumbled together with their concern for the poor and needy.  Even if we call their giving sacrificial, which certainly it is in various ways from time to time, the giving is almost never its own reward.  On the contrary, for a lot of the experts, the giving is a way to earn notoriety and money – and sometimes quite a lot of either or both.

Who’s to say how much of their concern is for themselves and how much for the needy?  But when I ask “Who cares?”, perhaps we could have this perspective.  And maybe, just maybe, those answering the call in their lives give more, give more godly, and maybe, just maybe, as foolish as that is, it is the wisdom of God.

So… Who Cares?

Did You Hear The One About The…?

Did you hear the one about the church group trying to help a needy guy they assumed was addicted to drugs?

Yeah, they studied for weeks, reading books, attending lectures, searching websites, and inquiring professionals about how to politely and effectively tell the bum to get a job.  I mean they met to discuss strategies, devise plans, research some more, met again and again looking for the best and most effective way to tell the bum to get a job.  But then they read some more books, attended some other lectures, searched some new websites, and found some new professionals to inquire about finding just the right way to tell the bum to get a job.  And after all that, they found a new book, a guru professional, and researched a statistically proven strategy devised by some researchers at the Baltimore Institute for Selling Books That Really Convict Rich People To Tell Bums To Get A Job, and suddenly they found the conviction to more effectively tell this bum to get a job, but first they had to study up on various approaches that seem to have better success in laboratory conditions with lab rats hooked on drugs.  And after that, they found a new video series that explains how that at root what “these people” really need is an effective strategy for telling a bum to get a job.  And then finally they devised a proven strategy for telling a bum to get a job so he would have dignity.  Dignity.  Yes.  It was a new idea, that would finally be the key to the effective strategy of telling a bum to get a job.  After all you have to contend with the ***ELEPHANT*** in the room when you are dealing with addicts.

Oh…  You heard it already?

I guess you had to be there.

Oh… wait, I forgot to say… the needy guy froze to death in a snow storm during the winter while this group worked so diligently to help him.

Isn’t that funny?

Yeah.  Makes me laugh to beat the band.

Did I mention it was a church group?

Yeah, they believe in Jesus and hang on every word he says.  Yeah.  That’s how they came up with the very effective way of telling the bum to get a job with dignity.  They learned it from Jesus!

Isn’t that funny???

Yeah.  I should have told that part before, then it would have been funny.

Oh well, the whole thing would be a joke if it weren’t so sad.

Christian Fasting? Not So Fast!

I found this post to be deeply challenging of some of my beliefs (some of which marginally apply to the regular content of my blog). The research and analysis offered here is first of all biblical, carefully biblical, logical, and meaningful. I also find that it challenges long-standing, popular views in the church. It requires me to give it careful consideration, even if I quibble with some bits of it. And at that level, it all fits very well with my blog, as I see it. I hope it edifies my readers too.

Dr. Mark Ellis

What follows was written in response to a dear friend who wrote me about fasting as a Christian discipline.

Dear Sister,

Thank you for your questions about fasting. It is an honor to be asked, and a privilege to answer your questions. 

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Jesus: The Good Shepherd of the Sheep You Can DEPEND On

For years now, I have listened to church leaders lament that our “help” to the poor creates dependency.  Dependency.  You would think that church leaders tending to Jesus’s flock would count that as a good thing.  But no.  Becoming dependent on Jesus – in their view – is a bad thing.

But listen to Jesus as he contrasts himself (the Good Shepherd) from the hired hands:

11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd.

(John 10:11-14a)

This is a picture of utter dependence, as I see it, and a contrast with hired hands who do not develop that kind of intimate relationship with the sheep.  Thus I would say – based on biblical principles – it doesn’t look good in heaven for church leaders to lament the dependency that develops when we “help” the poor.  And the idea that we might hurt them is ridiculous, while the idea that Jesus would lay down his life for them (be hurt on their behalf) appears to be purposeful.

I’m thinking my church leader friends have just blown it HUGE!

Look at the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:

3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

The shepherd searches for the lost lamb.  And let’s face it (in case you are unfamiliar with agriculture and sheep in particular, then this may be new for you), sheep are stupid animals.  And… People are sheep.  Sheep in need of a shepherd.  And this shepherd leaves the 99 to seek out the one lost lamb!

When I read this passage while camping with the homeless in the cold, blustery wind out back of First Baptist or the downtown First United Methodist churches, I often think: Where are the shepherds from these churches?  We are right here across the alley from their multimillion dollar facilities!  We make it easy for them!  They wouldn’t have to seek far!

Ahhh…  A small step for geography, but a giant leap over contempt, I guess…

But then the shepherd in the parable puts the newly found lamb through a detox and job training program that takes six weeks.

Um… Oops.  No.  That’s not the shepherd in the parable; that’s the shepherds trying to not create dependency.  Sorry.  I got them confused for a moment there.  No.  The shepherd in the parable lifts the lamb up on his shoulders and carries it all the way back home and then throws a party!  And that sounds like creating dependence by design in my Bible, according the biblical principles I see.

But let’s put that Luke 15 passage in it’s larger context, as long as we are talking about parties and contempt again.

Starting in Luke 14 (Go read it for yourself this time), Jesus challenges the way we go to and host parties.  Chapter 14, much of it anyway, functions almost like a Heaven’s Guide to Party Throwing.  You need to humble yourself as both guest or host, and when hosting you need to invite the bums!  And so the first two verses of chapter 15 depict Jesus practicing what he preaches.  He is partying with the bums and upsetting the “religious leaders” of his day (as we like to label them) who call him out for it.

This is what prompts the story of the lost sheep!  It’s more about the party than the search for the lost lamb, but that in no way negates our present observations.  And if you keep reading, you find he tells a story about a lost coin just after that, which also culminates in a party when the coin is found.  But the real punchline is the next parable, one of the most famous parables in all of Scripture – the story of the lost boy (The Prodigal Son).  And in THAT story, we find a boy completely undeserving of his father’s love come and ask for his inheritance even before the father dies.  The son is full of contempt!  And the father indulges the son!  He gives it all to him.  And the son squanders it in loose living and winds up homeless and destitute!

Is this starting to sound applicable???

The boy finally humbles himself and returns to the father to seek mercy, but he is thinking he might hire on as a servant in his father’s household – BASICALLY HE IS ONLY HOPING AGAINST HOPE THAT HIS FATHER WILL PUT HIM THROUGH A JOB TRAINING PROGRAM WHERE HE WILL TAKE THE LOWEST JOB THERE IS BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE BETTER THAN HIS PRESENT SITUATION.

And it would be better.  A lot better.  And a lot of church leaders would agree with that plan in theory!  In fact, they wouldn’t want the father to go too easy on the kid because the kid needs to learn responsibility, and the value of a buck; he needs to learn independence and have dignity.  But the father who indulged the kid to begin with sees the boy coming from a long way off and goes running to meet him in desperate passionate love!  And he sends the servants to prepare a… PARTY…!  Yes!  There it is!  The Party!

But there’s just one hitch: The kid, it turns out, has an older brother who chafes at the notion that his little brother would get a party for coming back home.  And the older brother confronts the father in all his contempt for the love their father would show to this wayward kid!  And so we finally see that Jesus is painting these “religious leaders” of his day into a corner with their own contempt because of their rebuttal at his having partied with the bums to begin like he said they should.

Dear Reader!

Am I getting through to you???

I have been telling you for years (scroll through the archives and see) that we need to party with the poor!  That is your biblical principle.  I have been calling you out for your contempt for the last several days.  I learn this from Jesus.

I suggest you cut all this nonsense with the When Helping Hurts and Seeking Shalom garbage and get with Jesus!  It’s not that far to go.  It’s a small step for theology kind, but a giant leap for your contempt.  But creating dependency is THE GOAL, not something to avoid.

Worship vs. Contempt

In recent posts, I laid out my view that at root our problem with helping the homeless is one of contempt.  In a more recent post, I painted, in broad brush strokes, a picture of worship as the solution.

To be forthright, I think contempt is very near the nub of the whole of all problems associated with “the human condition”.  Long ago we lost our will to, fervor for, and imagination of worship – the true worship of the creator God.  If we wish to find a cause and effect situation to study, let us view “The Fall” of creation as the effect caused by contempt.  We were utterly naked, vulnerable, and trusting, and though that bore the image of God and thereby ruled the world, we held such a God in contempt and thought we could run the place better without him.

But for our present purposes, rather than offer a full-blown, theological treatise on contempt and worship, I will relate these ideas to homeless ministry in particular.  But I will say that our current efforts to analyze all the causes of poverty, to protect our pride (“dignity”), and to seek Shalom by rejecting the commands and examples of Jesus culminate in a direct extension of the same contempt in which the first man and woman found themselves.

I already laid out my view that contempt is an ugly thing we typically prefer to hide from ourselves and others as far as possible.  Thus I will not reiterate all that now.  Therefore I merely assert, relying on previous argument, that taking the Seeking Shalom class and bogging down in analyses of the causes of poverty, in the extra-biblical redefinitions of key terms, and in the studied second-guessing of our charity and alms-giving is a smoke screen for our contempt of the poor.  This, I suggest, is an alternative explanation for the angst or dissonance these endeavors exploit.  For certainly we do care about the poor (a genuine feeling of pity/care) as well as a sense of Christian responsibility, but we allow the smoke screen to stifle such feelings with the shared notion that with the guidance of the leaders from the Lupton Center, we discover that God’s word actually directs us to criticize our own efforts to show care for the poor.

How do YOU explain it?  Smart, educated, capable, Christian people pay $25 a head to sit around discussing, reading, listening, and sharing their deep concerns for the poor while allowing the homeless to languish in the streets all winter long.  (How do you explain that???)  Jesus says, “Give to all who ask”; but these students say if you give freely you will harm the poor.  (How do you explain that???)  How can such smart people come to such ironic conclusions?

They want to.  That’s how.  And all the angst and second-guessing gives it all a sense of hard-won wisdom though it is about as dumb as it can be.  It gives it a sense of serving Jesus despite its clear opposition to him, and the more complicated you make poverty and charity, the more believable this otherwise ridiculous nonsense is.  And so it isn’t a matter of intellect; it’s a matter of contempt that desperately seeks a smoke screen behind which to hide.

It’s easy to get sucked into this garbage.  The opening salvo is to question if the charity is “effective”.  We modern Americans are not only rich (with an affinity to look down our nose at the poor), historically we pride ourselves as problem solvers.  Ask us if our charity is effective, and we don’t think about Jesus saying, “The poor you always have with you”; instead we immediately think – Oh yeah… we help and help and help, but these people don’t get any better!  We should fix this problem.

We are not called to be successful; we are called to be faithful.  Who says we engineer God’s success?  And what is the measure of success anyway?  And if we are truly effective/successful, then we will eliminate poverty, which sounds great, but if we really did, it would make Jesus a liar.  So again, what exactly is success – in the Shalom sense of the word?

Breaking off from that, let us stick close to Jesus commands.  And the one truly huge command I notice that neither our friends at the Lupton Center, nor anyone else I have found, points out is that Jesus commands us, actually commands us, to throw a party (Luke 14:13) and invite the poor who cannot repay us.  He does not tell us to fix them and turn them into people who can repay.

And the party is a worship service!  Worship is a party-celebration of God!  And God is among the poor!  Thus we celebrate him as we celebrate them!  And there is food and drink and interpersonal sharing around the table of celebration and worship that leads to healing, but healing that only the touch of God provides, not some half-measure healing that we might engineer of our own contemptuous designs.

No.  When you sit at the table to eat WITH someone, you occupy a place of mutual respect.  It just goes with the territory.  And thus worship, the celebration, honor, and praise of God amid the poor is the correct response to poverty.

Yes, join the poor at the altar, and you may well find that God grants Shalom to his creation as we take him at his word.  It is worship, the thing contempt robbed us of way back at the beginning, which, when restored in human hearts, enthrones God in his world.  And that should truly help the homeless in the final analysis.