Day 19: A home for the homeless

Who do you think of when you think of “a homeless man”?

Do you think of a man with a scruffy face, mangled hair, and a trash bag over one shoulder?  Or an old man wearing a Veteran’s cap and pushing a shopping cart?  Or a man with a flannel shirt on and a rogue dog at his side?  Or maybe a charlatan, a huckster, a con artist panhandling for money and driving home every night in his nice car?

Whatever our image of homeless men, we need to add one more to the list.

Jesus.

Surprising as it is–and as unflattering as it was to His credentials–Jesus was homeless.  We’d probably be embarrassed to write that on the Son of God’s resume, but Jesus didn’t hide it.  In fact, His disciples came to receive this fact about Him without embarrassment.  Two followers, Matthew and Luke, inspired by God, even wrote this fact down and generations of Christians have read it ever since.  It is the antithesis to the idea that Jesus came to bring wealth.

Now, wait a minute.  Does this mean that homelessness is holy?  No more than being a carpenter.  Jesus was both.  You can be homeless for bad reasons.  You can be a charlatan, or a drug addict, or an alcoholic, or just not want to work.  But it also means that homelessness is not a fault.  Jesus was homeless.  He chose to give up the inestimable wealth of Heaven to come to earth to be born in a feeding trough, raised in a poor family, taught in the trade of carpentry, preach for three years traveling miles and miles on dusty roads, and die on a cross in the death of utter shame.

We need to be careful about making judgments on people based on where they are at rather than the nature of their character.  Isaiah tells us that the crowds who saw Jesus on the cross presumed He was punished for His own sin.  Isaiah goes on to reveal that He was actually punished for ours.

It’s easy to think that everyone who is homeless in America is homeless by choice.  But the truth is, if we don’t know them, we don’t know why they’re homeless.  We might be judging in the way that Jesus revealed the Pharisees judge: by the way things outwardly look–rather than by the heart of the person.

With that said, even if someone is homeless by their own fault . . how does that stop me from helping them?  If I only got the help I deserved in my life . . whoa.  I’d be a goner.  It is, in fact, the times that I most mess up that I am in the most need of help!  To deny someone help because they got themselves into a mess might make sense from a worldly standpoint, but it’s outrageously hypocritical and, even more importantly, it’s against what God reveals in His Word about grace and mercy.  We are all the servant in the parable who has the opportunity to be forgiven of millions of dollars of debt.  And we all have the potential to turn right around and choke a fellow human being because they owe us a few cents.

We are called to help.  You cannot be a Christian and not be called to help.  You may not realize you are called to help, but you are definitely called to help.  The world is a mission field and if you are a Jesus-follower, God wants to send you out.  His heart and His compassion are for everyone, and we don’t have the right to “pick and choose” who we want in His Kingdom[1].

Now there are two kinds of help:

  • wise help
  • ineffectual help

Wise help seeks to bring a person the aid they need, and, if relevant, the opportunity for the change they need to make to find freedom from depending on aid.  That said, I find no reason to deny someone wise help, even if again and again they mess up.  I myself am a testament that it might take millions of times of grace before a change takes place.  Although not everyone will choose to receive grace, even if offered zillions of times, we are not God, and we don’t get to try to decide whose time “is up.”  Only God does that.

The homeless need wise help.  There are homeless men and women who are homeless because of poor choices.  They may have gone through terrible life circumstances and given up on trying.  They may have been raised in generational poverty and believe they can never break the cycle.  They may be unable to control a craving for alcohol or drugs, and they’ve driven themselves into poverty.  Even in the worst-case scenarios for why someone is homeless, they are not hopeless.  Sin may have gotten them there, but grace can get them out.

Wise help gives men and women emergency shelter, meals, and clothing; offers referral services for counseling, medical, housing, vocational opportunities, and educational classes; and shares the eternal shelter that can only be found in Jesus Christ.

Homelessness is not the greatest problem a person can have.  Not having a home in Heaven is the greatest problem a person can have.  As Christians, we should never forget to share the eternal home as we help provide temporary homes for those in need.

The local shelter in my area, Victory Mission, doesn’t receive any government funding because they are committed to sharing Jesus Christ with those they help.  They are supported totally by churches, organizations, and individuals.  Victory Mission has a number of ministries, like family ministries to help with emergency assistance and refer out for long-term assistance; a homeless shelter with life skill classes, nutritious meals, medical care, and Bible studies; a trade school; and a special program for foster children to receive emergency items when they are removed from homes.  Victory Mission also gives access to their financial records, including their audit.

Homeless shelters will be different in every area based on the needs of the homeless and the resources donated.  Visit the homeless shelter in your area to learn more about how you can help.  Would you share the love of Jesus with the homeless in honor of our Savior who was once homeless Himself?

As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” (Luke 9:57-58, NLT)

________________________________________

[1] From the Casting Crowns song If We Are the Body

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