Thursday, June 15, 2017

How to Handle the guy holding the "need money" sign

After thinking and praying about it, here are my thoughts on the person who keeps asking us for money-

Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’

39 But I say to you,

Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, [a] let him have your cloak as well.

41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Notes on verse:

38 – Jesus is referring to the lex talionis, the law of retribution. See Exodus 21:22-25, “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”  This is part of the Mosaic Law. The Mosaic Law was the “Law of the Land” for Israel. It is similar to the USA Constitution and Bill of Rights, and even state laws. The Mosaic Law is a legal code. This is not a right or suggestion that personal revenge is an option. In Jesus’ day, people may have been saying, “Get justice from the courts swiftly, if you have been harmed. Don’t let people get away with taking advantage of you!”

39- Jesus is bringing a deeper teaching, an explanation on the Torah. He is commentating, yet more than commentating, for he is the author of the Torah.

“Do not”- this is not a suggestion here, it is an imperative a command.

“Resist”-anti-histamine. To stand, bid, and uphold against.

“turn to him the other”- from my studies and listening to godly men on this, this has to do with actually turning around and walking away. In that culture, people are right-handed (or at least learn to be). So in order for them to slap you on the other cheek again, your back would have to be turned to them. “Turn around and walk away” “flee”. “allow yourself to be humiliated”.  To quote a famous, though troubled public figure, Gandhi, “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” Although this is a contestation of God’s word, and a clear misunderstanding of it, the desire for personal revenge is being rightly challenged here.

40- This is where it gets tough, and challenges human emotion/ the flesh. If someone wants x from you in a court of law, don’t only give him what he asks, give him more. I did this once with a neighbor, and I won a continuing friendship. We didn’t go to court, it was a “your kids broke my….I want $40.” We gave them $100. I am not saying it will always work well, but it is great fun to take Jesus up on his teaching and watch what happens. Our hopes is that pragmatically, it would “heap coals” on their head, for this injustice. Instead, it built a friendship with some good people.

41- We use the phrase, “Go the extra mile!” today. When I worked at McDonald’s we had a, “Go the extra smile” campaign. I thought it was a blast! In this context, according to commentators, Jesus is referring to Roman Soldiers who would force you to walk with them. This is also a grate against our flesh! I wonder what it would take to do this out of joy.  The Life Application Bible Commentary on Matthew says, “In an unequal power situation, you have no choice about the first mile. The soldier has the sword, so you carry his gear. And it’s a mile and an hour you can never get back. You’re the loser. What’s to be done? The second mile is your choice. It’s your way of saying, “God is in control here. He gives me energy, and a mere mile does not exhaust me. That sword is nothing; God is everything. Do you want to know where the real power lies? Try to keep up with me and I’ll tell you.”

42- THIS one is the toughest for me. My immediate rebuttal is, “But Jesus, what about the person on the corner who may use it to buy Meth or booze?” and “Do we have to give to everyone who asks, without question?” So what do I do? Well, I have struggled with this verse since 1994, living in the inner-city. I struggle with it every time I stop at an intersection and someone is holding a sign asking for help. I struggle with it when a passerby asks me for money for whatever. Does my giving enable them? Do I contribute to the problem? I asked Shane Claiborne, the author of “Irresistible Revolution”, what he thought about this. He thought it was a very good, hard question, and referred me to Mike Yankoski, author of, “Under the Overpass”. I have not asked him yet.

“Give”- this is an imperative! It is a command, not an option for the follower of Jesus.

“turn around”- do not turn away from that person. I have done this, and I have experienced grief for doing so, knowing that it was the Lord I had grieved.

“borrow”- to lend money, to loan them a resource. Here is the caveat to “give to whoever”. It is a borrowing not a giving. (although if they can’t or won’t repay, we should let that slide. But that is a different discussion.) I would say, do not just give, but have expectation. Expectation that they will return the money (without interest), or expectation that they will work for it, or expectation that they will allow us to give them counsel. Doing this is a greater help.

The question is are the phrases “Give to the one who asks” and “Do not refuse the one who would borrow from you” the same person or are these two DIFFERENT situations? I don’t think they have to be.

The Life Application Bible Commentary on Matthew adds, “Jesus’ followers should have a generous spirit. Because they loosely hold on to their personal rights and possessions, they can freely give when the need arises and won’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow.”

So what if someone, who is not from the church, asks for money? I think we attach strings to it! Here are some of my thoughts:

Option 1.  We loan it to them, expecting an interest free repayment, getting their information such as address & phone number. This can be done warmly. (I would hope for repayment, but if they don’t repay, we absorb it).

Option 2. We loan it to them, with the stipulation of meeting with them for financial counsel.

Option 3. We have them, depending on the case, do work around the church to pay it off.

Option 4. Go grocery shopping for them, or go WITH them to get a gift/gas card. This allows us to build a relationship with them and share the gospel.

Option 5. Ask them if this is what they really need, or is there something “broken” that we can help them fix. This is an opportunity for the gospel to be shared!

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