I was on vacation in Chicago this past week while my husband went to a conference. I slept in, watched TV, worked out in the middle of the day, did some shopping, and of course ate lots of junk food. It was marvelous.
This was the first time I spent an extended period of time in Chicago and it was exciting to see the city. When I travel to unfamiliar places, I can’t help but take notice of the homeless population there. Each city and even neighborhood has a different vibe. But poverty is poverty. It’s always unsettling.
Nothing was strikingly different than the homeless in Denver other than the concentration of people they saw. These panhandlers must have called out to hundreds of people throughout the day. They all said different things, but one man stopped me dead in my tracks. He repeated over and over, while shaking a cup in his outstretched hand, “Go to heaven, love your neighbor.”
His words were almost a challenge. Are you loving your neighbor? Will you go to heaven if you step over me without a glance? I didn’t necessarily agree with his tactic to be honest. But it worked. In the 60 seconds that I watched him, people plunked more coins in his cup than I saw people give all week. I looked down at my $3.00 coffee and instantly felt guilty. But the manner in which people gave to this man was clearly guilt-driven too and that is sad to me. The Lord commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Our love for our neighbor should be a natural extension of our love of Christ. It should be an active part of our lifestyle, not simply an afterthought. It shouldn’t be change in a cup; it’s an all day, every day investment in life-change.
I’m not going to tell you that every panhandler you see, you should take personal stake in. But I am going to tell you that every time you see someone in a desolate state, it should make you think: “What am I doing to help the poor?” and, “How does my life reflect the love of Christ?” and most importantly, “What does God call me to do daily for those in my community?”
For more information about how to help the homeless, click here.