A Voice in the Wilderness - Observations and Excursions of a Christian Zealot

Terry Walker's Weblog --- Occasional articles on the Christian Ethic

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Sometimes the homeless are better off homeless.

Having some experience serving the homeless, I think I have come to understand and relate to them. Not all of them, of course, as even within homeless circles there are those who simply do not want to be understood. But as a whole I have come to grasp what homeless people want and even more so, what they need. But like most humans, the homeless rarely want what they actually need.

When I lived in downtown Chicago, it was not uncommon to come into contact with the homeless on a regular basis. Because of this constant contact, charity was often abused by the recipients and rarely given with proper motivation. More often than not, people gave to the beggars to maintain the status quo. The beggars got the wine they wanted, and the working class got to feel good about themselves. This is hardly what either group needed. And there were always the professional vagabonds, middle class suburbanites, who drove their SUV’s downtown, while dressed in their raggedy costumes to panhandle in the Diamond District or at O’Hare Airport. Back in the late 80’s it was not uncommon for the pros to make 40 to $50,000.00 a year. As a result Chicago was a difficult place to maintain a charitable spirit.

Once, on a particularly beautiful day in Chicago, it fell my turn to pick up lunch for all my co-workers, so I left intent on picking up some subs from a take-out only sub shop near the high school. After parking, which is always an event in Chicago, I walked up to the sub shop were I was confronted, face to face, by a homeless man who was demanding money. It was obvious this man was not familiar with the unspoken rules of status quo, which required that he remain seated on the sidewalk, and ask for, rather than demand his money. But this man stood in my face and said he was hungry and wanted whatever money I had. Looking at the sub shop sign I told him, “If you are hungry I think you have come to the right place. This place makes the best subs in all Chicago and I am sure kids with extra lunch money will be by any minute.” With that I walked past him to place my order. As I ordered I thought perhaps I had become jaded and uncaring, so I ordered the homeless guy the best sub they had, “The Double Meat Roast Beef Grande”, provolone and Swiss cheese, with a hint of horseradish, brown mustard, au jus sauce and one half pound of the finest, medium rare, roast beef ever to be carved off a cow. It was a meal fit for a king, but when I went to give it to the hungry homeless guy, he looked at me with disgust, like I had horribly offended his sensitive palate, and he said, “What’s this, I don’t want this, I told you I want money, I can’t buy a 40 with sandwiches.” To which I replied, “You said you were hungry while standing outside a sub shop, and if it’s good enough for me and all my friends, it’s good enough for your sorry posterior.” So I left him no better off than he was before I met him. But then I wasn’t saved myself.

Thank God for His infinite mercy in saving such an evil man like me and opening my eyes to what I needed most, what all people really need most. There is no man alive who truly needs a 40 ounce can of alcohol. What a homeless person physically needs is clothing to keep him safe from the elements and sustenance to provide him the physical power to take his next breath. With this, all humanity should be satisfied, and anything else is just God providing abundance beyond our NEED. But I wonder if any Christians out there actually take me seriously when I make the statement, that food and clothing are the limit of our physical needs? How many Christians take the Bible seriously when it says, “Serving God does make us very rich, if we are satisfied with what we have. We brought nothing into the world, so we can take nothing out. But, if we have food and clothes, we will be satisfied with that. Those who want to become rich bring temptation to themselves and are caught in a trap. They want many foolish and harmful things that ruin and destroy people. The love of money causes all kinds of evil. Some people have left the faith, because they wanted to get more money, but they have caused themselves much sorrow.” (1 Timothy 6:6-10 NCV)

Do you catch that? The verse says “we will be satisfied with that.” Would you be satisfied with nothing more than food and clothing? What if God, as He did for Job, took all your earthly possessions, leaving you with nothing but the clothes on your back and a Church body to feed you? Would you be satisfied? Are you part of the “we” who are rich in the service of God? Perhaps you would be better off homeless and understanding these things, than living in your fine house and unaware of your condition. I know for me personally that I was never more miserable than when I was rich. It was my ruin, even causing me to leave the faith. But the temptation that comes as a result of comfort, security and overabundance, is not one that leaps out as a lion, but rather, it infects a Christian ever so slowly like an unseen cancer feeding your fervent worship and good works, until you are an empty shell, a mere shadow of your first works. The horrid part of this disease is that it always attacks your eyes first, leaving you blind to your own cancer, blind to your own true needs.

So what does the homeless man really need? A home? A car? A great job? A fine house in the suburbs with a beautiful wife, a dog and 2.3 kids? No, what the homeless man needs is the same thing a Christian needs, CHRIST! We need Jesus! We need Jesus! We need Jesus on our minds and in our hearts at all times, unceasingly. We need to meditate, pray, ponder, think, reflect, mull over and consider Jesus every moment of every day, lest we allow the cancer of satisfaction, the disease of complacency, or the scourge of thoughtlessness, or the curse of security to take hold and blind us to our sin. It only takes a tiny chink in your armor for the evil one’s dart to find flesh!

But the evil one has found his modern day chink in Christendom’s armor, it’s called cobelligerence. It is the postmodern Christian’s answer to political correctness, tolerance of every form of perversion and lenience toward degradation. Of course, they would never call it that; so called Christians of every persuasion would call it working together, even eating together, to solve a social ill! The problem is that cobelligerence didn’t work for the Jews in Ezra’s time (Ezra 10:3) it did not work for King Solomon (1 Kings 11:6) and it won’t work for us either. Chaff and good wheat simply can’t grow together, and even in this day, a single heart filled with leaven can still destroy a church body. But perhaps you think you are immune, and your church would never fall for such a thing. Yet the tolerance of homosexuality has long had hold of the Catholic Church. It has taken root in the Episcopal Church and has recently begun its infection of the Lutheran Church. If conservative, reformed, evangelical Christians cannot survive the toll of cobelligerence, then what of the lost homeless man.

A short time ago I was having a conversation with a man who questioned me concerning the use of my truck. He thought it unusual that an individual would own a moving truck, even for an odd man such as me. So I told him of my ministry of helps and hospitality toward the needy and homeless. When, after many minutes, I had finished. He said, “Well good for you.” I thought his response unenlightened. After all, I am hardly the focus of the ministry, and whether or not it is good for me is most irrelevant. Should a slave be thanked for doing what he ought to have done? It is God that I serve and those He puts in my path. But our conversation continued as I told him how hard it was to find people who were willing to help, and how money to operate the ministry always seemed difficult to come by. How it seemed to me that Christians are much harder to motivate than even the unsaved heathen, and charity is barely understood today and rarely practiced. The man practically laughed at me and said that perhaps my problem acquiring funds for the ministry was due to being Baptist. He said that his Catholic Church had a homeless ministry in Spartanburg and that they had no problem whatsoever finding supporters or funds. If fact he boasted of receiving a $20,000.00 check from a prominent banker just the day before. I has somewhat surprised, not by the money he received, but because I thought I knew all the homeless ministries in Spartanburg, yet I had never heard of the organization through which his church was involved.

Later that day, I logged on the internet to find out more about this homeless ministry and was stunned and horrified at what I read. The ministry does indeed support homeless families, with a basic and simple premise. The program, (which has branches in cities all over America), is supported by networks of 10-14 local churches, called “host congregations.”

Host congregations provide overnight lodging in their church facilities for 3-5 homeless families (or up to 14 individuals). In the morning the guests are transported to a day center located in a downtown church. At the day center, they get ready for daily activities; going to school or work, or looking for jobs and housing.

For one week at a time, host congregations open up their churches and provide overnight lodging, three meals a day, hospitality and counseling. Each week hosted homeless families rotate among the 14 host congregations in the network of churches. The goal of the network of churches is to “foster, assist and promote growth for a successful transition to independence.”

Sounds great doesn’t it, 14 churches getting together to tackle a social ill, to assist homeless families and aid them back to self-sufficiency, each church, for a week, doing what churches do, teaching, preaching and counseling concerning the word of God. What could be so horrifying about that? Oh, nothing except the list of host churches included:
2 Baptist churches, 2 Catholic churches, 1 Pentecostal church, 1 Methodist church, 2 Lutheran churches, 1 Episcopal church, 2 Presbyterian churches, 1 Seventh-Day Adventist church, 1 Unitarian Universalist church and a Jewish Temple.

Fourteen churches, 10 different denominations, and only God knows how many different errant views about God. What homeless family could survive such an onslaught of varying religious beliefs and maintain any semblance of truth in their understanding of God. Their only hope is to find a job and a house as quickly as possible, to get away from the very group of churches that proposes to “HELP” them. The homeless are better off homeless than they are getting involved in this cobelligerent “ministry”.

Brother Terry Walker
Providence Baptist Church
Greer, South Carolina