In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus describes how we will be judged after our death. Our Lord focuses on how we treat those around us, specifically the less fortunate. These days, however, we seem to have run into a bit of a roadblock that often keeps us from helping those around us. Namely, we have become very concerned about what a beggar will do with our money if we give it to him. We question whether or not he will spend the money on food and water, or if he will squander it on drugs, alcohol, or gambling. These are all legitimate concerns that we may have. But there is a problem: We have begun to assume that our concerns for what a person will do with the money we give them absolves us from Our Lord’s expectation that we will care for them. This is not true.
While we do not have to give money to every poor person we meet, we still need to find a way to care for the poor around us. One way to do this is to donate food, money, or time to a reputable soup kitchen/food pantry that serves the poor in our community. Another option, if you believe that it is safe to do so, would be to buy the poor person some food. Something else that I have tried in the past is to carry one or two gift cards for local restaurants in my wallet. This way if I were to give it to someone, they would have to spend it on food. I avoided carrying cards for grocery stores as many of those places also sell alcohol. These are all different options that carry their own pros and cons. How we choose to help the poor around us will depend on each of our own abilities as well as our circumstances and the degree of safety in our community.
If you can, I would suggest taking some time to work in a soup kitchen or food pantry. Even if you donate food and/or money to the organization, I think that there is a benefit to working directly with the people in your community and developing relationships with them. Working with a team of other people in an enclosed environment can be a safer way to get to know the people of your community if you live in a city where there is danger in the streets.
Let me know if you have any other suggestions on how we can serve the hungry in our communities.