Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Undeserving

Before class started yesterday we were having our typical pre air traffic class discussion. Including plenty of sports talk, some jokes about different players, and predictions about the upcoming basketball games.

Since we had a few minutes before actual class start time, one of the instructors told us about the moral dilemma he had the other day. He commented that his wife is the type that always gives money to the people standing out on the road or in parking lots holding signs asking for money. He on the other hand is more reluctant. His reason for being that way is because he was afraid he was not doing them any favor, and maybe even hurting them by giving them money. After that he clarified saying that if someone was in need, he would not hesitate to offer help. It was that these side of the road instances were not always clear. He worried that they used it for all the wrong things, or were simply lying or scamming people and he didn't know if he wanted to support that. But lately his wife had persuaded him that it wasn't for him to judge what the person does with the money it was simply his responsibility, as stated in scriptures, to give and show charity. He conceded that the scriptures were after all pretty clear about the matter, so he was making an effort, and trying to give more.

That's the background. Then came the story. He was on his way to the store a few days ago to make some copies. He only had a 100$ bill in his wallet. He saw someone outside the store with a cardboard sign, that read that he was disabled, had Parkinson's disease, a wife and kids, and "please help". He decided that he would get some change by making his copies, and on his way out would offer the person a 20$.

So a minute or two after entering the store he had finished, had some change and went outside intending to give to the person. But the previous beggar was now gone, and a new one had taken over a very nearby spot, and the new beggar was holding the exact same sign, and he was also presenting a bit shaky which would be typical of Parkinson's disease. He laughed and wondered if they have rotating shifts and all use the same sign.

The class laughed at the irony of the story. Here's someone who is trying to overcome his reluctance to donate because he wonders if the beggars asking are being dishonest, or mishandling or misusing what they are given, and then this happens which increased the doubts and reluctance to give all the more.

It was just interesting. As I sat there I wondered about giving, I wondered about giving to someone who in our measurement may in fact not deserve it or be worthy of it. Which is what this dilemma sort of boils down to. If the person is perceived to no deserve it, there is usually reluctance to give. I think the purpose behind the scriptures teaching to give to the poor isn't only about the poor, it also has much to do with the giver as well.

I thought about this off and on during our breaks. By the end I concluded that there is something very Christian (in the pure sense of that word) about giving to someone who's asking, and who in reality does not deserve it or isn't worthy of it. Christ died for sinners. There is no doubt about the unworthy, undeserving, sinful nature of the people for whom he offered the sacrifice. There was no doubt. It was certain, they did not, do not merit it, and many would mistreat, mock, and not accept it anyway. This is after all a fallen world. So if Christ died for everyone, including even those who were in the act of killing him, then I can see why the scriptures would identify that we should also give to others who we may perceive as not deserving it.  Christ died for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). So it may in fact be important how we act towards beggars who we may think don't deserve it. It can say something about our relationship to the Atonement. How much did we grasp what had been done for us, if what was done produces no change of heart in our own behavior towards others?

We have the chance to, in the right Spirit, offer a gesture that could be a small similitude of Christ's sacrifice. Small things repeated over time can show a lot. It may one time strike a chord, or prick the other persons heart on some way. But even if it doesn't, that too would would be following, in a small way, the example set by Christ who sacrificed for people who would never choose to value fully what was offered by Him.

So if Christ gave the ultimate sacrifice in spite of the unworthiness of the recipients, that says something. And it's not something you see very often in this world. It would make sense that we too can act, within the sphere of our own daily life, in a way that also shows a degree of that unconditional charity. It makes sense that when we receive of God, we then are able to give of God having first received. The beggar on the road might offer us one of those chances, because in another sense we are all beggars.

Evaluating if they deserve it, or how they'll use it, or if there is perhaps some nonliving organization we can donate to that will relieve our conscience of having to give to the beggars..... while thinking about all that we may miss what is right in front of us. I mean perhaps donating to those organizations would be good too, but we shouldn't overlook the human being in front of us asking for help. At the end of the day it's probably a personal thing, which should be guided by the Spirit.

Everyone can choose how they view this. Maybe helping others, without regard for their "worthiness" would be freeing.

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