A couple of years back I wrote a post over at my blog expressing my thoughts on giving to the homeless. In this post I expressed the idea that it would be really neat to think that that homeless person on the street is Christ himself; that one day long after I had forgotten all about it I would stand before the judgment seat of Christ and ask “When did I ever see you hungry or homeless?” and that he would respond, “Remember that homeless guy on Peachtree in front of the Fox Theater? That was me.”
Then I found a post by Michael Spencer in which he gives a poignant counterpoint to everything I said. He expresses the view that our giving must be tempered with responsibility; that if we just give to homeless people without asking questions or otherwise attempting to be responsible about it we may actually be doing them a huge disservice by allowing them to continue in addictive or criminal behaviors that are responsible for them being homeless in the first place, and we may hamper the work of organizations that are truly helping the homeless.
So which is it? Should we give responsibly, in an attempt to exercise responsible stewardship of the resources which Christ has entrusted to us? Or should we give blindly and generously, attempting to model the grace which Christ has lavished upon us without our deserving it?
I don’t think this is an either/or proposition, where one mode of giving is superior to the other. I think this, like so many other things in the Christian life, is a both/and. It is clear that asking questions and being responsible in your giving is the most effective way to help the homeless, at least in terms of producing results which are measurable in the eyes of the world. Yet at the same time, there is room in the economy of God for the kind of crazy, generous giving which attempts to model the grace of God which we did not deserve.