5Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have (Heb 13:)
Yes, I suppose there are beggars on the streets of America, but there's a vast difference between the beggars of Modern America and those of the Depression years and those in other countries. Traditionally beggars were those who had (and have) no other means by which they could survive because of some physical condition. For instance we read in the Bible of a crippled man begging alms. And we have the blind, and the leprous asking for aid. But I can't seem to find anywhere that a physically healthy person would lower themselves to begging unless there was absolutely no other way by which to survive and provide for his family.
During the Great Depression most of the work force, including children, were unable to find work. These by the thousands took to the road searching for work and for their daily bread. We had "bums" at every corner of every town, and at the door of just about every house in between. Yes, these men were perfectly capable of providing for themselves, they were not physically handicapped. They were just out of work. And "work" is the secret word of the day.
As far as I can tell it was rare that a healthy male would be outright begging on the streets during the Depression. Of course such a blanket statement can not be made, but I believe it's close enough to the truth to warrant the statement. Men and boys found ways of at least attempting to appear as if they are providing something for what they are asking. Some sold pencils, others apples, and others old newspapers they found on park benches. But they were trying to give something in return for what they were given.
Those men who did not remain at home, those on the road, were willing to do more work than was expected around the house in exchange for a meal or a night's sleep in the hayloft of a barn. They were not just looking for a handout, but for support.
Support is a word that has been lost and corrupted in modern civilization. Support means to "keep from falling or sinking, to enable to continue." Support today means, not to fill in the gaps, to enable to continue; but to totally bear the burden of.
During the Depression men, and even women, might consider themselves lucky to have a large cardboard box to sleep in during the cold winters. In the time of the old Testament, and even today in many countries, survival in fact meant "daily bread and water," and a bedroll they carry with them. If they are fortunate, they also have a tent of some nature. In Biblical times their bed covers was the coat they wore. This was the minimum, and it was what the beggars of the day were trying for, that is, the bare minimum with which they could survive (crumbs from the table according to Luke 16:21).
For years I lived on the road. I had nothing but the bicycle with which I carried everything I owned. I had with me my cooking utensils, my winter clothing, and my summer clothing. My shelter was a piece of nylon I stretched between my bicycle and the peg nails I carried with me. People would ask me what I did when it rained. I would tell them "I get wet." I lived on the streets. I didn't panhandle. I saw no need for panhandling. I had everything I needed, and far more than what those had who survived the Depression, who live on the streets in third world countries, and during Bible times. I considered myself quite blessed in fact. As for food, there was always something in season growing along side the road or in an empty field. Once I slept for several weeks under an apple tree next to a grape arbor. And during that time blackberries were in season, and all I needed was my Sierra cup, a bit of granola and a spoon full of powdered milk and I was eating like a king. Of course there were other times like when I survived for two weeks on a single winter squash that had been given to me. But those times were rare.
What I'm saying is that I'm not totally ignorant of the needs of those who live on the streets.
Beggars today are no longer interested in providing for their daily bread. They're after their daily fix, their daily booze, their daily cigarettes, and their daily restaurant feeding. As we all know, the cost of such luxuries is rapidly rising. Where it used to be that someone asking for a cigarette meant but the donation of a couple cents worth of commodity, it would now be the equivalent of a meal if wisely spent. Where at one time a person asking for a dime for a cup of coffee might be a small matter, the beggar now asks for a couple dollars for a cup of lattè. And whereas in days gone by the beggar on the corner would likely be an old or infirm man, the beggar of today is just as likely to be a high school boy or girl who is playing hooky from their studies. Trying to keep the needy afloat becomes an ever increasing burden as more of the un-needy thrust their hands out in front of the truly needy (and certainly there are those). The burden of the barren becomes unbearable.
What caused me to write this piece is something that happened just a couple days ago. As church was letting out a man about fifty came up to the church as the pastor and I was locking up. He began with a desire to know if a volunteer was needed around the church (we're a tiny church of maybe 8 souls). The pastor said we had no need of volunteers, but maybe the quite large church across the street might be in need of help. Before very long the true purpose of the man was made known. He wasn't looking for work, but for a handout. Was it food the man wanted? No. Was it a jacket against the cold he was in need of? No. What the man asked for was the amount required in order to stay in one of the finest hotels in town, something I certainly could not afford for myself.
Is it any wonder we are having difficulty caring for this nation's poor? The cost of poverty has gone through the roof!
4The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing. (Prov 20:)
11Give us this day our daily bread. 12And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (Mat 6:)
The beggars on the street are not the only ones who are not satisfied with their daily bread. The churches are growing ever more like the murmuring Hebrews in the wilderness as they seek for riches from God and not His mercy and his daily provision. We demand to have our lusts satisfied and not our needs. And what we consider our needs are increasingly incorporating and overpassing our lusts. When we consider the beggar who wants to be lavished in luxury, when we examine our feelings towards such a person; we must give heed to our own selves and consider what God must think of us, His children, when we expect the same of Him.
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