How many times do we stop at a traffic light or drive by a homeless person and have nothing to give them? How many times do we just avoid eye contact because we have nothing to offer? How many times do we feel compelled to help but are just too busy to engage?
As of early 2017, the Riverside county has more than 2,400 adults and children living on the streets as homeless, according to PIT count (“point-in-time” count). When you see them at a traffic light and have nothing to offer, it might get uncomfortable to even make eye contact. Then we may rationalized to say that giving money is not the best option anyways, as it may not be used for good purposes. Based on that, we find many excuses not to engage with homeless: “the city should take care of that”,”the church or other charities are already helping these people”. Sometimes we might even go as far as to doubt their motives and end up judging them: “he or she may be on drugs or something”, “he or she doesn’t want to be helped”, etc.
While some of those reasons might be true, they are not enough to “get us off the hook”, at least according to the Gospels. In Matthew, we see Jesus telling his disciples that, when we help those in need, we are actually helping Jesus himself (Mat 25:31-46). Jesus as the Son of God, obviously doesn’t “need” our help as He created and is the owner of all things (John 1:2). However, Jesus chooses to be on this position because, by helping those in need we connect to each other and with God in a special way. Take for example when any natural disaster or shooting happen. Among all the tragedy and pain, local communities invariably find strength to emerge more united and stronger than ever, as they help each other thru tough times. In the same way, when we help those in need, we join forces with Jesus in His work of repairing fallen humanity back into the image of God. In that, we share in the Savior work of redemption and we receive the joy that only comes from seeking and saving the lost ones! The joy of the Father of the prodigal son is always bigger and better than the bitterness of the old son, who just wanted to enjoy his own share of his inheritance and judge the younger brother.
Helping a homeless in the traffic light is just one more way to welcome those in need into God’s kingdom. And in the process, we experience the kingdom more intensely as well, by meeting the risen Christ in the “least of these”. As we do that, may we all we become the Father in the prodigal Son’s story, happily and joyfully welcoming those coming back home to Jesus.
The blessing bag is just one small step on that direction. It will be available in January, so we have something to offer on that traffic light next time… more to come, stay tuned!