It's so over...😞

Blessed to Give

February 14, 2024

When I was young, I was surrounded by very strong opinions when it came to giving money to beggars. It seemed that most of the adults in my life at that time all had a philosophy that was more-or-less the same, which boiled down to something like this: “I’ll give them food, but I won’t give them money.”

In all fairness, it seems sensible, and I can truly understand why some people think this way. “What if the person takes the money and uses it to fund their vices? Am I, in some small way, responsible for their folley? What if they don’t really need the money, and they’re just trying to make a quick buck at the expense of someone’s good will? Am I being played for a fool, or being taken advantage of? Why should I entrust this stranger with my money? After all, they’re probably stuck begging on the street because they don’t have a good sense of direction.”

It’s very easy to go on justifying yourself in this way, and if your heart is set, you will gather hundreds of reasons to withold giving.

Knowing that all people are icons of Christ, the classic Jordanville Prayer Book lists the disdain of beggars among many other sins:

O Lord, Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, show compassion and have mercy on me Thy sinful servant, and loose me from mine unworthiness, and forgive all wherein I have sinned against Thee today as a man, and not only as a man, but even worse than a beast, my sins voluntary and involuntary, known and unknown, whether from youth, and from evil suggestion, or whether from brazenness and despondency. If I have sworn by Thy name, or have blasphemed it in my thought; or reproached anyone, or slandered anyone in mine anger, or grieved anyone, or have become angry about anything; or have lied, or slept needlessly, or if a beggar hath come to me and I disdained him, … have mercy, O Master my Creator, on me, …

For a long time, I carried what I was taught, without thinking much about it. To be fair, I didn’t really need to think about it much, as there aren’t many street beggars in my neck of the woods. There were a handful of moments, after I had learned to drive as a teenager, when people would approach me to ask for food or money. Following what I had always been taught, I was always willing to buy them something to eat, but I never would have allowed myself to consider giving them cash. I can recall times when I would see the rare beggar on the street, and for whatever reason it was too inconvenient at the time to buy food for them, and I didn’t want to give them money, so I would just pass them by and hope someone else would come to their aid. More often than not, it was just easier to neglect them, and so I did.

I continued to think this way, until one particular Sunday, not long after my Chrismation, when our Bishop paid a visit to our parish. In his homily after the Liturgy, he went on to teach us about the importance of almsgiving, and told us that Christ expects us to give abundantly, especially to those in need. If you will excuse my paraphrasing, “Christ commanded us to give to the poor. But He did not tell you to consult yourself, asking what the beggar may do with the money afterwards. If they take it and spend it frivilously? Then judgement is theirs! But you have done your duty.” Hearing this felt like a great relief to me, as though I now had the ability to give without worry.

Another related side-story:

In the Spring of last year, my priest and spiritual father took us to attend the Liturgy at a nearby monastery. After service had ended, the Abbess met with our group, and allowed us to ask her questions about the faith. There was one other visitor that day who was not a part of our party, who had asked the Abbess, “What is the best way to give to the poor?”, to which she replied, “What has been your experience so far?”

All of this was happening around the time that I had taken a new job, and was beginning to travel more often for work. Many of my excursions ended up taking me to larger cities where street beggars are, sadly, more abundant. So, I took this as an opportunity to give as I was able, making it a point to try to give each time I encountered someone on the street, in order to begin to correct myself. There is one particular instance that I remember very well, and it was in this encounter that I learned about the blessedness of giving.

Right after I had accepted my new job, I was sent to a nearby city for a whole week to go through the company training program. Each day at noon, I would drive from the office to the gas station down the street to get something to eat. During one of these visits, I noticed there was an older man in a wheelchair, wearing a Veteran’s ballcap, asking for money in the median of the intersection just next to the gas station. At that moment, I decided that I would go inside, eat, and give him a few dollars on my way back to the office.

As I was finishing my lunch, I noticed that the man had rolled in through the door of the gas station. So, I approached him, got his attention, and pulled out a bill from my wallet, saying, “This is for you. Christ be with you.” And at that moment, he lit up, and with the most joy I have seen in the face of a beggar, he replied, “Thank you! He has been! I pray to Him every day.” I was stunned, having no clue how to respond to him in the moment. So, we shook hands and parted ways.

The exchange deeply affected me. I kept revisiting the moment in my head, returning to the same thoughts throughout the day: If I were in his shoes, a broken old man, begging for my next meal in the oppressive heat of the sun, would I have the same demeanor that he displayed in that moment? This Veteran was sold a lie, gave up his youth for promises of heroism, and returned to a country that hated him. Would I be thankful for anything if I were him? Would I despair, and give up prayer? Would I be tempted to think that God has forsaken me? And why was I so surprised at his response?

As the chief of sinners, each of us have squandered the particular gifts that we have been entrusted with, in a way that is unique to each of us. Yet, how many blessings have we received from God in spite of that? Surely, we deserve none of them. With an attitude of true love for our neighbor, let us joyfully offer back to Christ that which He has blessed us with – witholding nothing from Him. In our obedience, God will bless us by showing us our own faults and lead us to repentance.

📬Reply via E-Mail or Share with a friend.

[RSS] [Share]