[I wrote this article for my church’s publication, The Messenger. ]
One experience common to all humankind is interaction with the poor. Every society has its destitute, impoverished, homeless ones. There may be a myriad of explanations for this plight and a number of solutions to fix this collective problem, but the fact that poverty exists in every society is unassailable. Jesus put it this way:
You will always have the poor among you….
If you live on earth, even in South Pasadena, you will encounter the needy.
You’ve seen them; on the corner by the grocery store, resting on the bench at the bus stop, crossing the intersection with a shopping cart in tow, waiting at the end of the off ramp, and countless other places. They enter our lives suddenly and leave just as quickly. How can we respond to their needs, especially when our modern day encounters with the deprived are often so brief?
There is an Old Testament practice in which God commanded Israel to provide for the needy by leaving the corners of their fields when harvesting. Land owners would gather their crops, but left what grew on the edges for the poor and the immigrant to possess.
“Andwhen you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.”
Where are the corners in your life? What can you do to create space for the disadvantaged? I know of a couple that decided to put all their change in the ashtray of their car and would give it to anyone who asked of them. Sometimes they would have nothing, other times it would be much, but they knew that the change in their life didn’t belong to them. Their ashtray was their corner.
You may be like me and respond to such a practice by reminding yourself of the need for stewardship and discretion. Don’t many people beg and use the money they receive for drugs and alcohol? Is it really a good idea to give regardless of the circumstance? God’s Spirit certainly plays a discerning role in our interactions with others, to be sure, and we should learn to listen, but we must develop a chronic generosity in our hearts. Creating ways to give of ourselves is what the Giver demanded:
Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.