Tag Archives: homeless

“Least of these” ≠ “unsaved”

Least of These BannerI felt it was necessary to address a common misconception that is brought up in the church these days. The thing that is so dangerous about it is that we use religious language and inferences of Bible verses, but we do it in a way that gives us a dangerously inaccurate perception of the people we interact with.
We use the language of “Least of these” a lot in the church, especially when we are talking about “ministry” and “service.” This is not bad wording as it’s the language Jesus used when he told the Sheep in a parable why they were allowed to enter into His kingdom:
“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Primarly we say the “Least of these” when refer to people in need, whether that be the homeless, poor, low-income, etc. This seems like a good interpretation since Jesus himself describes the least of these as people with real physical needs: Hungry, Thirsty, Needing clothing, Sick, in Prison.
I think having concern in the church about the “least of these” is an extremely important and worthwhile use of our time. In fact it appears to be the longest and most direct words of Jesus about Heaven and Hell, which seems like it should get some attention in our after-life focused churches. (I met a guy in Atlanta who had a t-shirt with a picture of Jesus on it with the title: Angry Jesus and the quote: FEED THE POOR OR GO TO HELL! which seems like a pretty good paraphrase of Matthew 25 if you ask me.)

The misconception, the danger, and the wayward understanding I hear way too often in the church is an equating of the “Least of these” as “unsaved.” No where in the Matthew 25-where our language of the “least of these” comes from- is there any mention or inference that the people whom the sheep provided for where somehow “unsaved.” If anything Jesus says they are “brothers of mine,” implying they are part of the kingdom if they are anything.
Yet, in our churches today we talk about “ministries” and we tie so closely the idea of providing for folks physical needs with that of “saving people.” We create this idea that when you go to the soup kitchen you need to “tell people about Jesus,” as if they are unsaved, unchurched, and in need of your gospel. Let me make clear, there are a lot of people who need to know the love of Jesus, but there are just as many in the church pews and suburbs around you as there are in the homeless shelters and housing projects. Just because someone can’t make ends meet to put a roof over their head does not mean they some how do not know God or haven’t experienced the Holy Spirit.

We need to stop treating the “least of these” as “unsaved” and start treating them like the sister’s and brother’s in Christ that they are, and even more treating them as the Kings and Queens that they are, since according to Jesus, “Their’s is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Conclusion: Don’t stop the soup kitchen and homeless shelters, we need to continue providing for our sibling. If anything we probably need to step it up a couple notches since the most tangible way you can interact with Jesus nowadays is not in a church service or a song, it’s feeding him and clothing him (“When I was hungry you gave me something to eat.”).
What we need to do is stop treating “service” projects as some sort of charity, hand-out, that gives us the jollies, as if we are stepping down from our place of superiority to help these helpless people (Cause that is straight-up garbage).

Many uses for vacant campuses

Passing through Vanderbilt’s fairly vacant campus tonight, Mindy pointed out how sad it was that all these dormitories and other buildings sit pretty much vacant for about three months out of the year. At the same time, plenty of folks spend the nights out on the streets with no where to lay their head. The Fine brainstorm ensued and here where some thoughts the brilliant Mindy produced…

Imagine a three month rehabilitation center set up on vacant university campuses each summer. That is a good amount of time to offer a sort of detox and rehab program for a number of folks. It’d also be ample time to help diagnose mental health concerns and provide plans of care for those in need. Something like this could easily be supported by current students serving as interns and having an opportunity to gain some hands on real life experience related to their field of interest.

Another idea was to set up a three month summer education program for and put together by both students and community members (particularly those in need of living spaces). Imagine being part of a three month summer school that offered classes, workshops, discussion groups and more put together by college professors, students, homeless and formerly homeless persons, and a great many other people. Imagine living in a dorm with that sort of array of people and backgrounds. Imagine breaking bread together with folks from the other side of the tracks. Unfortunately, current colleges don’t seem to provide this, but what about the opportunity to offer these sorts of things on empty college campuses in the summer.

This is me thinking out loud.
What are your thoughts?

Gift Bags

In the past I’ve brought up the idea that we should be more giving and not use the excuse of what happens on the receiving end to justify our lack of giving. The response, not unexpected, that folks don’t want to give a person money because they might spend it on booze or drugs. Instead folks would like to give something else. Well, since I can’t convince them otherwise, I figured I should offer a more agreeable suggestion.

A sweet guy from Nashville gave a great suggestion about what to put in a gift bag you might give to a homeless person. Basically he suggests a paper bag with:

  • new or clean socks
  • nail clippers
  • a comb
  • tooth paste
  • tooth brush
  • deodorant
  • bar of soap
  • gloves (when it’s cold)
  • disposable razor
  • small candies
  • personal note or decorate the bag

The Homeless Guy: Gift Bags

Sometimes they will try to make you feel guilty so they can get more out of you. Be polite but firm. If you set, and hold to your limits, they will respect you for it. This is a great way of giving. I have received such packages myself – they’ve always been a blessing.

I’d like to add one final suggestion to thise gift bag idea. I still think you should put a few bucks in the bag. Money is a very useful and tangible resource, you can get whatever you might need with it. Take a couple dollars or maybe a five and put it in an envelope and seal it. Then write a note on the envelope. Write whatever it might be that you would like to say to a person about being wise about what they use their money for.

What would you write on the envelope?

Nashville Homeless Memorial and Christmas

A friend of mine and I went to the Nashville Homeless Memorial on Saturday morning. It’s a chance for folks to come together and remember and honor those who have died in the past year.

According to a “Homeless Count” organized by the Department of Social Services on March 24, 2004 there were a minimum of 1,805 homeless individuals. This count only included those who were actually physically seen and counted and did not include camps that were not found or the hundreds who may be staying with acquaintances, friends, or in motels. [TIMC]

There where about 20+ names read and a few stories told. A couple people read some poems, shared some thoughts, and did a little spoken word. It was neat to be a part of the people gathered, there but troubling at the same time.
Are Christians so naive as to not connect HOMELESS and JESUS? I’ve mentioned this before, but it keeps bothering me. At some point down the road we are going to need to make a shift in our way of thinking. WE WORSHIP A MAN WHO WAS HOMELESS! Why do we not the treat the homeless we encounter around us with the same level of dignity?
I want to be careful here though, because I don’t want people going around saying, that because Jesus was a man we should treat men with more dignity or anything crazy like that. I do think though that there is something terribly important to recognize about the fact that Jesus, while preaching the Kingdom, did not have a job, nor a home. What do you think of that?