I never shared a recap of our Family Advent Calendar that we did for the first time this year in the days leading up to Christmas. All in all, we loved it! It was a lot of work and I'll be the first to admit that some activities got put off to different days (as in "we don't have time today, we'll just do two activities on Saturday") and at least one didn't get done at all. But still, I call it a success! The kids loved opening the envelopes each day and reading the activity and verse. It kept us on track to actually do both the meaningful and fun things we wanted to do during the Christmas season.
One of the activities I've been meaning to write about was "Give $5 to each person we drive past begging on the streets."
I have to back up a bit for some history. My husband and I give a lot to charities and to our church, and nearly two years ago we committed to giving an amount away each month that actually hurt, like above and beyond the tithing and the giving we were already doing. It has been good, great really. It is not our money anyway, but all given to us by God and we believe He doesn't want us to steward His money by just buying ourselves stuff! And now it has become so natural that we don't even count the money as a loss, like "We could have gone on this vacation or bought this new car if we weren't giving this." We are happy to be able to give. Challenged to live on less so we can give away more.
All that to say, I used to not believe (even as recently as a few months ago) in giving to beggars on the streets. I felt like we were better off giving to organizations that can truly help people and then we know the money is being well-spent. Also, I worried that giving to beggars just encouraged them to continue begging rather than pursuing "real jobs". And my logic felt biblical. You know, "for each one should carry his own load." Gal. 6:5.
But, I live in a large urban area where I come face to face with beggars often and it never set right with me the ignoring their cardboard sign pleas for help. I debated giving out just food or bottled water, at least then I'd know they weren't using the money for drugs or alcohol or cigarettes! I often wondered what Jesus would really have me do stopped there at the red light.
Then a few months ago, I saw it. A verse I hadn't really read before, "Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back." Luke 6:30.
Wow! So that's pretty clear. And it's Jesus talking. You know, the red letters!
So, I was excited about this Advent activity. For the 1st time I was going to roll down my window and give to those who were begging from me. I wasn't going to judge their life or how they were going to spend the money, that wasn't really my worry. For my part, I was being obedient to Jesus and what He commanded.
I stuffed some ziploc bags with a $5 bill, a cereal bar, a candy cane (for Christmas cheer), and a Bible verse ("This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him." 1 John 4:9).
And after school, I loaded my 4 kids in the car to go search for beggars.
I talked to the kids about the many reasons people end up begging on the streets and also the Bible verse from Luke 6:30 and told them that we were going to give because we had the means and it's what God tells us to do.
We headed towards a street corner I figured would have a beggar. I was right. The kids spotted him from a block away and started yelling excitedly. I had to U-turn to get where he was on the driver's side of the car and as we came back around I saw that he did in fact have a sign and he was smoking. God was really working on me here! "Remember, don't judge. Just give!" I kept saying to myself, but it was hard. I really wanted to skip that guy to say he wasn't worthy of our giving, oh it was ugly! Have I ever mentioned how much I hate cigarette smoking? Thankfully, my kids were too excited and I couldn't explain why we were skipping that guy, so I rolled down my window and gave.
At first it was awkward, but by the 5th person it was just awesome! I'd told the kids they could shout "Merry Christmas!" if they wanted to, only Little Girl actually did it. But she did it with enthusiasm and volume! I'm sure the beggars thought we were nuts!
The 4th person we encountered begging was a woman and that seemed to hit my kids pretty hard, my oldest son, especially. I'm also going to be honest and say that when we just had one bag left I was ready to go home, tired of weaving through traffic. I tried to convince my kids that it would be good to have a bag left in the car and that way the next time we encountered a beggar and we weren't specially looking for one, we could still give. They weren't having it! They were determined to give them all away. Seriously, my kids are better people than I am!
This activity was good, very good. My kids are praying now more for "people who don't have homes". And Little Girl frequently asks me as if she just can't believe it to be true, "Mommy, some people don't have houses?"
I've given a couple times since to beggars just cash from my wallet, even when it wasn't our devotional activity, and even when my kids weren't in the car to see or hold me accountable. It won't be our main conduit of giving, I still believe in giving the bulk to well-researched organizations that are doing true good, but giving something to those who ask of you is good, too.
Find more Thankful Thursday here.