One of the single, biggest concerns about giving to the poor is the idea of “enabling” poor choices and behaviors. A lot of Christians refuse to give money to beggars for fear of supporting a booze/drug habit. I have addressed this idea multiple times on this blog, but I don’t recall ever pointing out the contempt of it.
I do not deny that giving a few dollars to a beggar frequently winds up going toward the booze/drug fund. I would even estimate that it goes there more often than not. I have pointed this out before. I understand the thinking about giving a meal instead of the money, and I am not against that idea at all (however, I do question the stubbornness of not giving money, but we will get to that in a bit). Actually, I would say that if you are going to feed instead of fund, it is better to SHARE the meal than to leave it with the beggar (as a rule of thumb). I say this because if you sit down to eat with the bum, you are expressing your interpersonal value of her humanity – especially if you bring the bum home to eat the meal with your family.
Moving on, I have also pointed out repeatedly that the idea of “enabling” is not a biblical idea or concern. It is a word and idea that circulates in recovery circles and a few psych books. I don’t deny that the phenomenon exists, and for that matter, I have even said that if you are in an ongoing relationship with a person working their way out of addiction, then withholding cash for fear of “enabling” might be the wise and good thing to do. However, when you meet a beggar and begin to assume this of them, you are holding them in contempt.
Not all beggars are addicts, and not all addicts automatically use alms they receive to support their addictions. This is not actually a one-to-one corresponding reality. And for that matter, it is not your concern anyway. When you assume this power trip over a beggar, you seek to make their choices for them and lock them out of the decision making process – at some level. And for American Christians who hold so strongly to Augustine’s Free Will Theodicy, that is a double standard. It is contempt. You don’t have the right to over rule, or lord it over, the beggar.
In fact, that beggar is Jesus. The needy/hungry prisoner/stranger is him (Matt. 25), and he is your Lord and Savior, your Master, King, and Friend. This much you know about that beggar even before he asks. You have the responsibility to treat him accordingly.
No. Jesus does not demand you give him your cash. Your food, your water, your time and presence are enough as long as your heart is right and your giving is done freely – as freely as you received.
Your obstinance about giving so that you do not “enable” Jesus, a beggar you never previously met, is about your contempt, your desire to lord it over this person (a whole category of people, really) who you are going to “help”. You have the wrong position vis-à-vis Jesus. (Again, if you are in an ongoing relationship with a person in recovery with whom you have established that they want you not to tempt them with money while they struggle against the temptation, that is a different situation. You are not assuming and lording it over, you are honoring a request. But even then, you should keep in mind that the Father, in the story of the Prodigal Son, gives the money to the son who wastes it all as expected. So, if this happens, you are in good company with God!)
On the contrary, when you give freely, you show respect to the beggar. You respect their capacity to choose for good or ill what to do with the offering of alms you bring. Their ill choices are not your responsibility. If you wish to argue that they are, then be prepared to answer for wearing Nike shoes made in sweat shops in Indonesia by slave children or for using iPhones made by workers in deplorable factory conditions that have contributed to many suicides, or for drinking coffee grown and harvested in free trade rather than fair trade conditions! Own stock? What exactly is your money supporting there? Are you funding the fraud and greed of mega banks and stock brokers who take your money and use it on cocaine, call girls, and crooked lawyers? And if you aren’t worried about where that money goes, but you do worry that it will “enable” the beggar you don’t even know to buy a beer, then you are in contempt of God.