I live in the suburbs of the Balitmore/D.C. Metro area. Like all metropolitan areas, we have our share of people who beg for money on the side of the streets. I know from experience that some of them are homeless, living underneath an overpass, perhaps finding a bed at a local shelter, and if they make enough money from begging then they can afford a cheap motel. I also know from experience that many of them suffer from mental illness and/or drug addiction. Lastly, I know from experience that some of them are running a con game.
Regardless of who these beggars are, they are a person created in the image of God. So what do we who follow Jesus do?
Earlier this week, I saw a new face standing on the street asking for money. She is a young Latino woman. I had a couple of dollars that I handed her and also gave her my card, telling her that I could try to help if she wanted more help. Little did I know but because of a language barrier, she probably did not understand me much of what I said.
After I drove off I prayed for her and that is where things went sideways. My personal mantra for the way I want to live my life is to “live like Jesus.” Now admittedly, I don’t always do that well (more than I like). Part of living like Jesus means becoming more attentive to the work and leading of the Holy Spirit in my life. Normally, I am great at seeing how the Holy Spirit was trying to work from the rear-view mirror. However, this time I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
I could merely hand money to this woman and that might help her eat and find shelter for the next day or so. But it seems as though Jesus would have done more. After all, rather than just offering a hand-out, he healed a leper and a blind man (Mk 1.40-41; Lk 18:35-43). And this is what the Holy Spirit was convicting me of. So it seemed that I should at least approach this woman, introduce myself, and be a friend like Jesus.
Well, today I saw the same woman asking for money on the street near the Starbucks I frequent. So this time I parked my Jeep and approached her. This is where I learned she speaks Spanish, which I speak very little of. This woman’s name if Maria and from what I gather, she is a couple of months pregnant and living in a cheap motel. I tried my best to tell her that there was ways of help and gave her my card. She said she would call. Maybe she will and maybe she won’t. If she does, I will need the help of a few of my fellow Christians from the Columbia Church of Christ who speak Spanish fluently and then, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will go from there.
That’s the story. I don’t have allusions that I can end poverty and homelessness. But I do believe that as Jesus followers, we are called to be friends with all people, including those begging for money on the side of the street. I also believe that the Holy Spirit is at work, convicting us to follow Jesus and that we must recognize Spirit’s work and obey it.
And the most amazing thing is that the more I obey the Spirit, the more convicted I am that Jesus is the way, truth, and life (Jn 14:6).