PLEASE, MAY I HAVE SOME MONEY?

So, have you ever had anyone knocking at your door begging for money?

Or, have someone call you in the middle of the night because they’re stranded at the town bus/train station and they’d like you to come give them money to get home?

This is scary stuff. Sure, you (the church) wants to help someone in need, but few of these people are truly in need.

The stories usually go like this —

1. A dramatic tale of why they’re stranded with not even a dollar to their name.

2. Why they have to get home immediately (home is always conveniently about 50 miles away – enough to need money to get there, but not far enough to need 100s of dollars to get there).

3. Food doesn’t count, what they need is cash.

4. They always, always promise to pay you back.

You’re always between a rock and hard place here. You know 95% of them simply want money for alcohol – but how do you determine the 5% who really are stranded?

The evangelical churches in Racine established a food bank called Harvest Outreach. Each church took a different shift at the pantry to pack, distribute, manage the food. This was great, because if someone came by and said they needed money for food, we could send them to Harvest Outreach where they would receive food and also literature explaining their need for salvation.

Because our church was on the road to Milwaukee, we got a lot of people stopping by and this was a way to meet their needs.

Another thing Ken often would do – if the person said he needed gas, Ken would have the man/woman follow him to a gas station and then literally fill up the person’s tank and pay for the gas on the spot, rather than give the person money.

When we first enrolled at Moody as freshman, we were lectured NOT to give anyone money. If we truly wanted to help someone, (guys, not girls) were to lead him to a restaurant and buy him coffee. (Moody faculty knew they had  lot of students fresh from the country in the city for the first time.)

I remember another man in Racine who would periodically show up at the church asking for money. After a while, Ken got to know him and he admitted one day that he lived by begging off the churches. He would just go down the list and then start over.

Pastors, churches and church staff  members (who are at the church on weekdays) need to decide on a plan BEFORE someone comes to the church begging. That way everyone is on the same page. (Sometimes Ken did give money – but only $20.00 or so.)

I want to talk more about this – does anyone have any experiences?

4 thoughts on “PLEASE, MAY I HAVE SOME MONEY?”

  1. I’m sure it won’t surprise you that we’ve had quite a few experiences with people asking for money. One man came back three or four times asking for money to pay for rent, food, and gasoline. Our policy is that we do not give out cash, and so my husband referred him to the community food pantry and gave him a gas card. He came to church once to show that he was “real,” and then we never saw him again.

    People can be pretty ugly when their request for cash is denied. One man spit out as he was leaving, “And you call yourselves Christians.”

    The stories, as you said, are always the same–they are stuck here needing to get there, or vice versa. Two weeks ago, it was a little different–he needed to pay his motel bill, and the motel was holding is luggage hostage until he could.

    It’s so hard. We want to be kind and share the love of Jesus with the unsaved world, but allowing ourselves to be duped doesn’t seem like a wise use of God’s money either.

    We do try to keep a stash of Wal-Mart gift cards and gas gift cards in the church office for those occasions when we really need to be able to give someone something (sometimes it feels unsafe, and having something to pass on makes it a bit better), but we never give cash. Sometimes, though, even the gift cards are not satisfactory, and the person leaves empty-handed–of their own choice.

  2. Yes, it’s always difficult to know what to do – who’s being honest, who isn’t (and unfortunately, most aren’t).

    Aren’t we glad that the Lord knows the heart? He knows the hearts of the people who are being dishonest – and He also knows our hearts – people who want to help, but don’t want to be taken advantage of unfairly.

  3. Alison mentioned gift cards. Do you know of any grocery stores that have gift cards with restrictions so people can not buy alcohol/cigarettes with them? Just curious.

  4. By the way, even though I usually read these as they come out, it’s nice to have something to look back on when the topic arises. Thanks for sharing!

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