Once I drove towards Schifflange, Luxembourg to put up posters for an evangelistic activity we were sponsoring.
Suddenly I saw a man stagger from the sidewalk into the street.
I thought he was having a medical problem so I stopped to help.
When I got to him, though, I saw that his “medical problem” gurgled from a bottle.
I worried, though, that he would wander back into the street and get run over, so I asked him where he lived, hoping to help him home. He wasn’t very coherent but an old lady happened by and she knew him. She said she could show me.
And show me she tried to—from the sidewalk on the other side of the street she would point the direction. She didn’t want anyone to see her walking through town with a drunk man.
She left that to me.
I told the man I was taking him home, so occasionally he would raise his arm like Teddy Roosevelt leading the charge at San Juan hill and yell, “A la maison!” (to the house!)
Things didn’t go well. My little lady gave up. I was walking through the center of town, guiding a man who yelled, “To the house!” when the mood struck him.
He didn’t seem to know where the house was, so finally I told him that we maybe we need to go by the police station and they could help us.
The word, “police,” worked magic with him. Immediately he seemed ten percent less drunk. He didn’t want to see them. I think if I had repeated “police” ten times real fast, he would have been stone-cold sober.
I can’t remember how it all worked out. We couldn’t find his place and I left him a minute. When I came back he was nowhere to be seen. I suppose that it was the vision of all those police, which helped him move faster and straighter to wherever he got off to.
I walked back to my car a bit mad. “He wasn’t as drunk as he seemed to be,” I mused. “I wasted my time helping him. That’s the last time I do that.”
When To Help
Have you ever noticed that helping and giving isn’t as obvious as it seems? When are you wasting your time and your money? There are tons of lazy people who play on your conscience to support their laziness.
If they worked as hard to support themselves as they work to keep from working they would be rich.
Here in the Paris area where I live now, we’re constantly confronted with people asking for money. There’s the gypsy lady and her little girl sitting near the subway exit; there’s the people on the train who don’t speak French so they put a card on the seat next to you, asking for help.
There’s the homeless man who is always on the bench next to the river. When you go into the center of Paris you’ll probably be solicited three or four times by people wanting something.
We’re constantly confronted with calls for giving, especially if we’re in the church or if we have a heart of compassion. We want to give, but we don’t want to waste what we give. We want to give for food, not booze. We want to help those who can’t find work, not encourage those who don’t want to work.
But, how do you know? Here are some ideas on how to use our money and time to help effectively.
Give generously to people, ministry and situations you know. Investigate and ask questions.
Be careful that you’re not perpetuating a bad situation by helping people stay in misery instead of really doing something to change.
Try to help beyond giving a few bucks. Often our giving is more to relieve a guilty conscience than it is to help.
Give from a merciful heart. I find myself making value judgments on people I don’t even know. “He really needs help. She’s lazy. They could do better.”
Recently God blessed me in a certain way. It was one of those “poured-over-the-head,-so-rich-you-could-lay-down-and-wallow-in-it” blessings. I did nothing to deserve it. God just blessed me.
Not long after, I tried to decide whether to give a euro to a gypsy beggar lady. Did she deserve it? Shouldn’t she get another way of life?
Wait a minute. How come God gave me a “gully-washer” blessing that I didn’t do anything to earn and I received that with joy, then I tried to decide if that lady deserved my lousy little euro?
There have been times that I have helped and the person misused my help. Yes, it’s frustrating. It will happen. But, before God, doesn’t it count the same? God looks to see if I have a generous heart and that pleases him. What the person does with that generosity is between him and God.
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matt. 6:1-3, NIV)
If your giving is on an ongoing basis, though, you need to be wise and make sure you’re not doing harm. You need to help the person get in a situation where they can support themselves and help others.
In a sense, we need the poor. It helps us sort out our heart. We can choose generosity. I want to express God’s heart to others. I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of that heart and I like it.
May we make others thank God because of our generosity.
“Grace inspires generosity. Abundance flows from generosity.” dp
“It’s rare to find a consistently creative or insightful person who is also an angry person. They can’t occupy the same space, and if your anger moves in, generosity and creativity often move out. It’s difficult to use revenge or animus to fuel great work.” Seth Godin