He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. - Micah 6:8
Growing up in St. Louis, I am so used to seeing homeless people everyday. It was so easy to just ignore them and pass by. Most of the people I was raised with taught us to avoid the homeless, because they are all “making up stories to make you feel sorry for them.” Also, they might just spend their money on drugs or cigarettes. My old youth group would go on youth retreats downtown and our sponsors would tell us to stay away from the homeless and to not feel obligated to give them anything. I even remember one of our sponsors telling us to not make eye contact with them. They acted as if the homeless were not real humans and I remember being so bothered by this.
One year, when I was in middle school, a homeless man wanted to volunteer at our live nativity scene around Christmas time. He just happened to be near by and wanted to do something productive with his time. He played the role of Joseph and my brother and I both were shepherds. At first, we didn't say anything to each other, and honestly, I felt really uncomfortable being around a homeless man. We stood in the cold next to the manger in silence. Even the others who dressed up with us didn't say anything. My younger brother then let out a loud burp. We all couldn't help but laugh, including the homeless man. After that, he joked around with me and my brother and turned out to have a great sense of humor, and honestly, it was then that I started to view him as human, and not just homeless. My perspective changed so much and I was so inspired that I thought I would go into homeless ministry as a career.
Years passed, and I never got involved with homeless ministry. I can't even count how many times a homeless person has approached me asking for money. I have been to Chicago multiple times to visit my sister at her college and have been downtown St. Louis so many times with friends, and every time a homeless person would ask for money to buy a bus ticket to get back to their family, I apologized and with guilt said I did not have any extra change. Besides, they are just going to spend the money on drugs - how could you trust them? Plus, everyone was telling me that it was okay to not give them anything.
This past summer, I was at a Bible study and someone asked the question, "Is it okay to give someone money when they beg for it, even though you know they will just spend it on cigarettes or drugs?" We thought about it for awhile, and I remember thinking, it doesn't matter what they spend the spend the money on; we are called to give and God sees that we gave and that's what is most important. Even though I knew that giving is important, I didn't apply that to my own life. I kept avoiding it.
When our COR class went to St. Louis this past semester, my perspective completely was turned around. Instead of being scared of the homeless and being in the city after dark like most of the students, I was more nervous of how I would react. I am already familiar with the city, but I am not familiar with spending time with the homeless. I once had a strong passion for them, and I felt as if I had lost that. It wasn’t that I didn’t care - I was just bitter about giving them money to spend on mostly drugs.
We went through a tunnel under 12th street, which was really muddy and dark and we had to use flash lights to see where we were going. As we got closer to the end of the tunnel, we saw a small campfire in the distance. As it started to get lighter in the tunnel, we saw tents set up on the sides. No one came out of the first set of tents, and we kept moving forward. We ran into a second set of tents. There were chairs set up around the campfire, along with a lot of stuff that the homeless had collected from dumpsters, including a wooden door. They also had their own pantry. We got to talk to a few people who had called this area their home and listen to their tragic stories of how they became homeless.
I thought it was so interesting how they called themselves a family, and how humans have a natural instinct to bond with other people. They each took on the roles of a family. The lady was called, "mom," and there was a man that was called, "dad." There was an elderly man who did not talk to us, but just sat at the fire the whole time, and he was called "grandpa." There were also two teenagers living there that played the role of the kids. The mom and dad of the group took care of the children. That is what struck me the most. Even though they really had nothing, they were happy to have each other and fulfill that need for a family.
Christians should be known for giving, and not being judgemental. Even though they really had nothing, they were able to appreciate everything they had. This is the type of faith we all need to have. We need to remember that God does not owe us anything, but we owe everything to God.
The Sheep and the Goats
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."