I was browsing the Freakonomics blog the other day and ran across this great quote by Ehrenreich, when asked this question:
You are walking down the street in New York City with $10 of disposable income in your pocket. You come to a corner with a hot dog vendor on one side and a beggar on the other. The beggar looks like he’s been drinking; the hot dog vendor looks like an upstanding citizen. How, if at all, do you distribute the $10 in your pocket, and why?
Although I’m atheist, I defer to Jesus on beggar-related matters. He said, if a man asks for your coat, give him your cloak too. (Actually, he said if a man “sue thee at the law” for the coat, but most beggars skip the legal process.) Jesus did not say: First, administer a breathalyzer test to the supplicant, or, first, sit him down for a pep talk on “focus” and “goal-setting.” He said: Give him the damn coat.
As a matter of religious observance, if a beggar importunes me directly, I must fork over some money. How do I know whether he’s been drinking or suffers from a neurological disorder anyway? Unless I’m his parole officer, what do I care? And before anyone virtuously offers him a hot dog, they should reflect on the possibility that the beggar is a vegetarian or only eats kosher or Hallal meat.
Is it interesting to anyone else that you have here an atheist (a well known one at that, and on a very popular media outlet), invoking the commands of Jesus as a guide for how we are to respond to those in need? It seems God’s really struggling with supposed “followers” when it takes beggars on the street to confront christians to follow the command to give, and an atheist in the media to remind christians of those commands.