Feeding the Homeless, Three Scones at a Time

Dolly greeted me from her usual spot across the street from the courthouse. “Hey, how you doing?”

“Good,” I said. “On my way to get coffee. Had breakfast yet?”

She pointed to a slumped over plastic bag on the ledge next to her. “Got my Pringles,” she said with her almost-toothless smile.

I went on to the coffee shop hoping their day-old basket hadn’t emptied out yet. There were three scones left and I scooped them up and asked the cashier to put them in a bag as I ordered my coffee.

Dolly was still there on the ledge by the post office. I knew she would be.

“Thought you all might get hungry again.” By “all” I meant Dolly and her boyfriend Tex and their friend Kevin. These three folks are always ready with a good word for whoever passes by. She nodded her thanks and put the scones next to the can of chips.

“Say hi to the guys for me,” I said as I crossed back over to the courthouse.

“I will.” I could hear the smile in her voice while I kept my eyes on the traffic.

Not The Time For A Lecture

A couple of years ago a team of three young pastors started a new blog. They were eager, they were earnest, and they were woefully lacking in experience.

One day they wrote an article on how to help the poor: either confine it to those who are already believers or couple it with evangelism if the poor people are not Christians. They insisted that any other assistance to the poor is not only prohibited by Scripture, but that it is sinful and a waste of God’s riches.

Seriously.

I left a comment pushing back on this a bit and they got even more insistent. Giving to the non-Christian poor without also engaging in evangelistic efforts violates Scripture, they kept saying. God won’t hold us accountable for letting people go hungry, they continued, because he expects us to restrict our charity.

In essence, “Let them starve.”

I stopped reading that blog.

It’s not that I think they’re wrong merely because I find their position repugnant. I do find it repugnant, but that is not the right test. The right test is Scripture, and that’s where they went wrong.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:7-10, emphasis added.)

Paul begins this passage with a warning about mocking God, and then goes on to discuss generous charity. He notes that we especially should not ignore the needs of fellow Christians, but the mockery of God also occurs if we ignore the needs of non-believers. What else could “all people” mean in this context?

Jesus earlier explained why hospitality is to be shared freely:

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:44-45.)

Jesus didn’t say we should care for others only if they are fellow Christians. He didn’t say we should care for non-Christians only if we are evangelizing them. He said we should bless everybody because that’s what our heavenly Father does and as his children we should do the same. It’s a blessing we get to share.

So apparently God is pleased to shower his blessings on those who belong to him and on those who do not, and Jesus said we should do the same because we are his children.

And sometimes we get to do it three scones at a time.

***

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33 Responses to Feeding the Homeless, Three Scones at a Time

  1. vrein11 says:

    Amen!!

  2. Love this post. Sometimes I concentrate on “the household of faith” in Galatians 6:10 and then the LORD provides for us from those who are not even of the household of faith. Before my husband recently became bedridden, my unchurched neighbor men have picked up my husband and put him in bed even at 10:30 pm. As a dementia caregiver, I have had to give up the notions that I can do it all. I can’t.

    And, we do not know the stories of the homeless people. One man who with his family could be homeless is now our volunteer yard man. We have bartered our equipment for his help and that equipment helps him make money with other jobs. Just got a call from him and he will be out to mow our yard and fix things this week. In turn I am tutoring his son next school year. I have my plans for him to be in church, but have had to step back and let the LORD work in his life. As you emphasized, “Let us do good to all.”

    • Tim says:

      It is clear to see God working in those situations, Carol. What a blessing for you and your husband, and for those you are helping as well.

  3. Jeannie says:

    Thanks, Tim — great post. I hope those young pastors have moved on to a different understanding of what God expects of us, especially since they are influencing others with their counsel.

  4. EricaM says:

    Sadly, this is not the first time I have heard this thought process. I’ve also heard it used to criticized Christian organizations that visit third world countries and mainly distribute medicine and other basic needs. But if someone is struggling merely to survive, what better way to show them God’s love than to simply care for them? Many times these actions are better testimony than a good sermon.

    This reminds me of a discussion I had with a friend a few years ago. We were discussing charity and how to make discerning decisions about it.While we agreed one shouldn’t give to charity organizations that steal donations, we were in a disagreement for a while about whether or not it would be right to give to an individual who looked like they would misuse it. I thought it would be helping them destroy themselves. But as my friend pointed out, it’s not up to us to decide who will use our help properly and who won’t; it is only up to us to give freely and gladly. And he’s right. God gives everyone gifts and talents that they may use for His glory, or they may abuse for their own selfish desires.

    • Tim says:

      Actions are a powerful testimony to God’s love, Erica. Jesus healed and preached that the kingdom is near. And as Paul reminds us in Romans 10:17, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” So Paul tells us the importance of giving hospitality to all in Galatians 6 and of telling people about Jesus in Romans 10, and Jesus shows how that is done through his actions on earth.

      As for picking the worthy recipients of our hospitality, I agree with you and your friend. God’s rain falls on everyone and we can hand food to everyone as well. It’s the same thing with God’s word: Jesus spoke to a lot of people who rejected his word, but there are also those who accepted it at the same time.

  5. janehinrichs says:

    Thanks Tim! Loved the story.And glad you are no longer reading the other blog. May God speak to the writers’ hearts. Jesus gave bread to thousands at once — He doesn’t withhold. May we be just like Him!

  6. Aimee Byrd says:

    Such a good post, Tim. I love the opening story, and how you actually gave food instead of just throwing money their way. This takes an extra step of caring in hospitality, as well as an assurance that our help is being used the way we want it to.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks, Aimee. It was a way of helping that God put right in my path, literally. Dolly was sitting there on the way to the coffee shop, the shop had the scones, I had some cash, and Dolly was there on my way back to the courthouse. How often have I overlooked other opportunities that God has placed right there in front of me? I don’t know but I’m glad I took this one and went with it!

  7. Ruth says:

    Lovely story Tim. Choosing a’worthy recipient’ of our sharing? Thats a weird story from the blog you quote! We wouldnt be receiving Gods grace if we were worthy, because we aren’t either without Christ lol. Should I choose the drunk and hurting young man to sleep at our place, the motherless one needing family time, the one who tells magnificent whoppers, but has no self esteem, the homeless one who is cjucked out of home by mums drunk boyfriend, the one who needs to escape family conflict, the girl with issues, the lonely girl who wants to mix safely with some friends, the girl whose relative is too suggestive for her liking, amd so it goes.
    You can clean up the vomit and the boy, spend time with the lonely ones, offer 24 hour open door to those who need it, find odd jobs for the one with no money, give money or clothes etc to those who need it, or just always be there and love and respect these lovely people who have unlovely lives.
    They give more than we ever can because they take our love- sometimes suspiciously at first- but to see the hurt open up, bit by bit, is so amazing. Sometimes things don’t work straight away, but eventually we see a person return, usually in better shape and some come to Christs love, others listen, but they all hear openly that we have a youth group on, we go to church, we love God, amd we love them. My sons front home many of their friends who are going through a rough time, there is always a place to sleep, get their washing done, have a shower, have a meal and stay.
    We are in debt and have nothing much financial for the future, but, no kid leaves my house without being cared for, listened to, and accepted without reservation. The best times I have, ever!

    • Tim says:

      That is wonderful, Ruth, your words and your example. One hting I hope people get from your comment and my post is not to be discouraged form doing anything just because they can’t do everything. Jesus showed us through his own example thta even he did not do everything for everyone.

      We instead should take the opportunities we have and give. Is three scones a lot for me to have done for Dolly and her friends? Not by a long shot. Sometimes I only bring them coffee, other times I get them some sandwiches, but it’s not like any of this is huge. It’s all something, though, and that’s what God wants us to do: show his love by doing something

      • Ruth says:

        So true Tim, we can’t do everything for everyone, but I like to pray en mass for everyone everywhere when I feel so helpless and want to help. I want scads of money so I can give scads away, I want to see things work for good for everyone…..but we can’t, and often that humbling brings us to our knees where I think we should be, a lot, literally if we can still get that far!
        What ever we do, how ever we do it, God blesses in waves of outcomes that sometimes we have been honoured to see, others not. That drunk young, motherless man is now in a great relationship, sober, working and the most doting and caring father out there, they have just visited us and invited us to their wedding ( yep, wrong way round to some of us ), but they said we were family to them ( yes I cried on the quiet !).
        The girl was a school friend of our sons as well, so to see both of them doing so well is such a joy..i think we get rewards before Heaven sometimes 🙂
        Both are open to listen to Christian things, they hear plenty at our place, and so it goes, I have so many stories I could write a book, but who has time?
        Looks like you may be over run with my revelations, but I really like your take on life, so feel very at home posting, and I enjoy your responses to all the posters on your site. Thankyou for taking the time, it means a lot to me. 🙂

        • Tim says:

          I am so pleased for that young couple and the blessings they’ve found in your family. How wonderful that they desire to share their own joy back with you!

  8. Maureen says:

    At one time I thought like these 3 young bloggers. But honestly it was exhausting (at best), and just wrong (I’ve repented). Moving forward, there are now numerous GodStories tucked away in my heart because of freely giving without regard to worthiness. In a quiet moment God will bring one of these to mind and I have another opportunity to worship Him. Again.

    • Tim says:

      Exhausting is right, Maureen. “Oh no, what if I gave charity to the wrong person?” Who wants to live like that, always second guessing a kindness done for others? God’s rain falls on the just and unjust alike, and that’s grace.

  9. Pingback: Simple Ways to Help the The Poor – you’d be surprised | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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  11. Retha says:

    People like those young preachers need to understand the gospel is not just saying a magic formula (salvation prayer) to stay out of hell.
    The gospel is about God restoring all that is broken in this world, and saying “yes” to the gospel is about telling God that you will go on the restoring spree with Him.
    Hungry people is a part of the brokenness which should be restored.

    (If anyone wants to know my perspective on the gospel, I link to it from my name.)

    • Tim says:

      “… saying ‘yes’ to the gospel is about telling God that you will go on the restoring spree with Him.” I love that phrase, Retha.

  12. Laura Droege says:

    Hadn’t those young pastors read the book of James?!

  13. The Blogging Beth says:

    Those guys remind me of my former church who believed that it wasn’t the church’s job to help those in need. Their job was only to spread the gospel and it’s the only thing that would count.

    • Tim says:

      How people can ignore the bulk of Jesus’ ministry and still claim to preach the gospel is beyond me. He was helping people all over the place.

      • OKRickety says:

        “the bulk of Jesus’ ministry” and “He was helping people all over the place.”.

        First, I want you to know that I believe it is godly for Christians to physically help others, but I think there are limitations and should be done wisely. However, I find your understanding as shown above to be simplistic, at least, and certainly questionable. So, here is a serious question: Was the bulk of Jesus’ ministry helping people? Perhaps you have a different Bible than I do. In mine, I find that, yes, Jesus did heal people of physical illness and infirmity, He rid one of demons, and He raised a couple back to life. Are we capable of such work? Presumably, miraculous healing is beyond the capabilities of most, if not all, Christians today.

        What other non-spiritual help did Jesus provide? He did provide one or two meals to thousands on two occasions (and wine for the wedding). Other than those, I can think of no reference to Jesus providing food, physical shelter, financial assistance, legal assistance, and similar.

        When you read the Gospels, I think the majority of the words are records of His teaching, not of Him “helping”. It seems to me that His primary focus was to help people spiritually. So much so that His final words before His ascension (The Great Commission) make no mention of “helping” people but are entirely concerned with the spiritual well-being of all the nations:

        “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Matt. 28:19-20 NASB]

        • Tim says:

          Thee are many more healings than the ones you note, and I count actions such as his rescue of the woman caught in adultery as a ministry of help and word as well.

          On the Great Commission, the word disciple is telling. If a didciple merely adopts a belief sysyem, she or he could as easily be called a believer instead of disciple. But if a disciple imitates the teacher’s actions (a more likely use of the word from what I see) then we are to teach people how to care for others as well as love God. This shows the Great Commission is congruent to the Great Commandments.

        • OKRickety says:

          Tim,Yes, there are many more healings than the ones I noted. I did not think it necessary to provide an exhaustive list, as I consider miraculous physical healing to be outside our control (although God may choose to do so at our request) . I presume you are aware that the authenticity of the passage about the woman caught in adultery is debatable, making that example less than ideal.It’s interesting that you provide no examples of “Jesus providing food, physical shelter, financial assistance, legal assistance, and similar” other than the “woman caught in adultery” which I suppose could be construed to be providing legal assistance.If Jesus did not do this, nor the early Christians (I cannot think of any examples showing this behavior), then I find the idea of making this an expectation for someone to be a disciple of Christ to be questionable.Again, I am not opposed to helping non-Christians but I don’t find this to be emphasized Biblically, and it is certainly secondary to them accepting salvation through Christ. I was expecting you to provide better Biblical support for your position. Instead, you implied its existence (“many more healings”) and then sidetracked to disciple vs. believer (which avoids the question of what actions were made by the teacher).

        • Tim says:

          I think your questions raise an interesting discusdion, although they go beyond the point of the post which is that helping non Christians is not prohibited (as that one blog argued). To engage your questions fairly would require me to write another blog post. Or perhaps you could write it?

  14. Vashra Araeshkigal says:

    “I do find it repugnant, but that is not the right test.”

    That is one of the most profound statements I have read in a very long time.

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