Who Is My Neighbor?
In Leviticus 18:1-5; 19:9-18, we hear that “when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I AM the LORD your God.” And in Luke 10:25-37, we have Jesus telling a lawyer the story of the Good Samaritan who helped the wounded man on the road.
That brings up the question for us of “Who is my neighbor”?
We have all seen the men and women with a sign asking for food, sitting on the corner, at the entry to the supermarket, near the fast food restaurant. Are they really a neighbor? Are they truly hungry?
It is so hard to know. Yes, there are homeless people. There are people who have missed meals. Some of them even have children or pets with them.
And yet, there are people who play the “pity” card. There have been articles that show some of these folks are gleaning $50,000 to $60,000 a year getting money from others. They may be the exception according to some studies.
Yes, there are people who fall through the cracks in our social services system. There are those who are ex-convicts that have trouble finding jobs. There are people with physical or mental health issues that make it difficult to get or keep a job. There are drug addicts who want money for their next “fix”.
How do you tell the difference between those who are truly needy and those who are just looking for a “quick” buck?
What, as Christians, are we called to do?
God calls us to be wise stewards of the gifts He has given us. What is a good steward? Someone who does not waste the gifts and talents given but uses discernment in using those gifts and talents wisely to the glory of God.
Being a wise steward could be purchasing an additional meal or sandwich for the one who is asking for money. Those who are truly needy will take the sandwich or meal and be appreciative of the meal. Those who are just looking for the cash will turn down the food, and not be very kind about it.
Be discerning when approached by someone asking for help. Helping our neighbor is appropriate. So is being a good steward.