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Q&A: How should we respond to the people at Walmart with signs begging for help?
This is a really challenging issue! Panhandling has become fairly popular and we now regularly see people with small cardboard signs near high traffic areas asking for financial donations. How should believers respond, and do verses like Luke 6:30 tell us to give no matter what?
It's interesting to me that the ESV used the word "beg" in Luke 6:30, since "ask" is far more often the word of choice. The NASB renders it this way:
"Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back." Luke 6:30 (NASB)
The point is that believers are to be characterized by generosity and compassion—showing mercy and kindness even if the person doesn't deserve those things. Why? Because we are the recipients of God's mercy and He certainly poured out His love on us when we least deserved it.
I really like the following quote from the Tyndale Bible Commentary because it expresses a wonderful balance of thought on this matter. I find it expresses my own thoughts on this issue.
Once again it is the spirit of the saying that is important. If Christians took this one absolutely literally there would soon be a class of saintly paupers, owning nothing, and another of prosperous idlers and thieves. It is not this that Jesus is seeking, but a readiness among his followers to give and give and give. Love must be ready to be deprived of everything if need be. Of course, in a given case it may not be the way of love to give. But it is love that must decide whether we give or withhold, not a regard for our possessions. The word give, by the way, is in the continuous tense. Jesus is talking about a habitual attitude, not merely an occasional generous impulse. —Tyndale Commentaries
Isn't that good? Love is to be our motive—loving people more than our possessions. But when is giving not an act of love?
Personally, I don't think there's any substitute for Spirit-led giving. If the willingness to give is present, and the believer is listening for the Father's voice, giving will be generous and helpful. But indiscriminately handing out cash to someone who will only take it and buy liquor or drugs is not being benevolent or helpful.