Contempt & “Enabling”

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.

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4 comments

  1. Michael Wilson · March 2

    I really like how you are framing this. I have been reading and thinking more on this today in follow up to your previous blog on this. I agree, contempt it is. I do not want to be held in “contempt of Jesus”. That isn’t going to work out so well I think.

    Blessings for this great insight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · March 2

      Thanx for the encouraging word.

      Let me offer this perspective (in no way diminishing yours or anyone elses who has responded so far):

      I feel like a broken record over all. MOST of what I have offered here in the last month is not that new. Addressing Seeking Shalom directly is, but even that program to a large extent is not new and I have addressed it before.

      There is no doubt that each time I circle round again, I nuance things differently. Perhaps even clarify what was muddy before and so on. So maybe it is said BETTER as we go. And certainly in the last 2-3 days I have focused on Contempt specifically.

      Btw, contempt is where I operate generally. The reason I come on so strong and blunt is not because I do not know grace, but because I am dealing with contempt. I think contempt, not some simple misunderstanding or some really complex theology is to blame, and I think we need to cut the nonsense.

      But here is where my perspective at the moment is…

      I am not rebutting Seeking Shalom at every point, but I am rebutting it at some major key junctures. I am not saying that every single thought offered there is just awful and should be rejected, but most of it, and most of the driving thrust of it, is and should be.

      I would like to think that just pointing out the inconsistency in taking Jesus at his word would be enough. In theory, that should be all I need to say… all I need call into question. And if that cannot be answered directly, then it shows there is something wrong with the program.

      I am okay with giving people time to adjust their focus so that they see this for themselves. I don’t just give up my understanding of Jesus first rattle out of the box. I need to sit with the cognitive dissonance a bit, with the heart dissonance for a bit. I didn’t get this far by not caring. But there is no doubt I am mistaken about Jesus as some points. And some of them may be very important points. But I am not likely to give up what I think about them willy nilly… nor should I. That would have me tossed around by every wind of doctrine way too easily. And so I am willing to give that grace to those I challenge. I am willing to hear the counter rebuttal even – but it helps if it takes the points I raise and deals with them rather than attacking me for my tone or whatever.

      AT THE SAME TIME, I think this kind of thing is rather urgent too. On the one hand Judgment is in the balance (if I am right). But also, it is cold out there at night RIGHT NOW. Another month or six weeks, and the urgency is subsided until next year. And of course this conversation will diminish in the interim too. Not to mention that the directive in Matt 25 is not complex and is self-evidently important. So, just how much time do you really need to see that you locked Jesus outside last night??? Still, I am willing to extend patience as best I can.

      I think, therefore, that it is important to take on a handful of the major points behind this program and show them to be misleading. And then beyond simple criticism, it is always in good taste to offer a solution. And while I could simply say, Just Do What Jesus says… even a lot of that could stand to be explicated… That is afterall what preaching is generally supposed to do. Otherwise we would just stand up and read the red letters and sit down with no background context and no guidance for contemporary applications.

      I sense I have offered enough of the negative really. IF some local people will read here and take me seriously, I thin they will find themselves thinking a host of new thoughts not offered or even considered by the program. At the very least, I would think they would want to round out the educational aspects. But I also want to say somethings about the celebration/worship of Jesus at just that juncture (also largely covered elsewhere on this blog already, though surely could be clarified and improved and all that).

      I am certain that based on the offerings I have made and anticipate making again, we could compile a program too. Not that necessarily counters Seeking Shalom directly, but one that explores the stuff that program misses or even hides to say the least. So there is that too.

      And so… in the big picture then, I wonder why I am not having a better conversation with my classmates. We had a couple points of real contact,but they seem short lived at this point. Still, I must say that even despite this friction, I am pleased with and blessed by the church I attend. And I hope that this engagement at least leaves behind influence in its wake that causes people to second guess all the second guessing, and perhaps opens their imagination to the Party God invites us to.

      Thanx for responding.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Michael Wilson · March 2

    Well then, I know I am a broken record a lot.

    Alas though, the Apostle Paul says “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” I appreciate your persistence!

    God is with you!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pastor Randy · March 3

    Well said as always X. Too many (even 1 person is too many) are operating their lives out of poor theology. I especially love that point about not giving a meal but SHARING a meal. Nothing breaks down human barriers like breaking bread together!

    Liked by 1 person

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