Even More Thoughts from Atlanta…Feel Good Religion

I love big cities. But I also struggle with them too. For instance, I met a guy in Atlanta who approached me and a co-worker for money while we were looking at a menu outside of a fancy restaurant. I never give people money. I will buy them lunch or a bus ticket. But I never give cash. The guy didn’t look right. Although he didn’t smell of alcohol, I wondered if he was on drugs based on his eyes. He talked a good game. The man said he was homeless and gave a litany of reasons why he couldn’t get a job.

My co-worker gave the man some money. I didn’t. This jump started a lengthy discussion at dinner about helping the poor. At other times in the past, I have helped homeless people buy groceries or bought them dinner. I didn’t help the man this time because of the situation.

My co-worker and I talked about our motivation in giving. Sometimes we give to make ourselves feel better. Sometimes we give to get people to leave us alone. Sometimes we give because that is what a good person is supposed to do. Sometimes people give because we think that is what God would have us do. I told my co-worker that I try to sense in the moment what is right and do that. Then, I go on without making apologies for it.

Given the situation, I would do the same thing again. I still believe that giving money in most circumstances is not a good move. Many of the people on the street don’t need the things they are likely to spend the money on, such as drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. If I was not on a business trip, I might have offered to take the gentleman into the food court for dinner. Christians should show Christ’s love to the poor and the homeless. But that doesn’t mean that we have to help everyone who might ask for it.

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