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11 September 2008


Simon Varwell

David, very moving to get that snapshot of all the different sorts of cases you are dealing with. Thoughts and prayers with you in your striving for such difficult and fine judgement.

Andrew T

Very true, GV, we must be vigilant to discern between those who are in genuine need and those who would take advantage of us. It is not in the least bit un-Christian to refuse to give money to those that we suspect might have uses for it other than real needs and we should also not feel bad about it.

My own policy with regards to people begging for money is not to give them anything but to donate to genuine charities that have the experience to help people in a way that tackles their problems. In this day of the welfare state it is very unlikely that in Scotland somebody cannot afford a loaf of bread; the real reason for their begging is sadly very often to feed their addiction to narcotics, alcohol or gambling. By giving them money we are only contributing to their ruin. It's far better to fund the professionals who can aid them in breaking-free of these addictions.


I know the man you mean, he cornered me outside the church asking if I remembered him and told me his mum was in hospital and he needed money to buy her magazines, at first I didn't remember him but then when he asked for money I remembered that I'd been pressurised into giving him money a few years ago! Thankfully this time I could tell him truthfully that I was skint, at which point he vanished (on to his next target I suppose!)

It is so hard to get the balance and have wisdom to know what to do in these situations. The last time, when I had money, I felt guilty because he obviously didn't have much, and in the end I gave him some out of sheer frustration, but pressurising and guilt-tripping people into giving is very obviously wrong and I now realise there is no need to feel guilty about saying no to someone who goes about things in such a way.


Personally, I have always found that one of the main advantages of looking like a nutter is that chuggers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chugger) leave you alone; curious if something similar would be true in this case.

Andrew - as regards your denunciation of the Welfare State ( James Bartholemew - http://www.thewelfarestatewerein.com - fan?) I don't think that the victorian distinction between the deserving and underserving poor is particularly Christian, unless you believe that Christ's "go and sin no more" qualifier applies to addictions. Aren't the latter legitimate medical problems? Far more people would waste their God-given lives in alcoholism, for example, if not for interventions like detox or drugs like acamprosate or antabuse.

A lot of apparently ethical charities are problematic ethically too. Read that CARE are notoriously homophobic, for example.

Andrew T

Er, Ryan, I think you perhaps misunderstand my point. I was not making any comment on the welfare state......only saying that it exists to provide a safety-net for food and shelter and thus people these days are unlikely to need to beg unless there is an underlying problem, (e.g. addiction). Secondly, I was trying to point out that it is better to give money to charities that help treat people with addictions rather than give money to the addicts themselves to exacerbate those problems. I am sure you would agree that it is hardly helping the heroin addict by giving him money to buy his next fix when it could be that very next fix that kills him.

Andrew T

I have been wracking my brain and looking through my Bible and using search tools to find a specific passage in scripture which deals with people falsely obtaining charity and how we should exercise care in these matters.....can anyone point me to it or is it a figment of my imagination? Help!

Simon J

Andrew - can't help you, I am hoping GV can?!

I met "the man" of whom you speak (let's call him "J") after church last sun morning (7th). He ssked me for money for his leccy & told me he was back cos his mum has cancer. I gently refused to give money, saying that if he came back this eve I was sure David would help him out if anyone could. He assured me that he had already spoken to you (?!) and that you said you couldn't help him!

Anyway, listened to a sermon today from The Village Church that suggested that Luke 6:35 "But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back" means that we should be giving to the folk who ask for money from Christians just because they know they're more likely to get it. Are we sure we shouldn't give money to J or those like him?

I'm beginning to wonder if I did the right thing in (gently) sending J packing.



Simon, I struggle with knowing what to do too and every time I'm asked I think I probably have a different reaction depending on how I'm feeling (which is probably not good to be so inconsistent!!), but this time my thinking was more about the other people in the church and about not setting a precedent whereby this man knew he would always get money by 'guilt-tripping' people (which in the long run is neither good for him or the people he's asking).

I had been thinking a lot that week about how vulnerable people in the church need to be protected, and it is not good that vulnerable people are being pestered to give money they cannot afford to someone who is just 'at it'. (However, I am very well aware that the argument to that is that many people in St. Silas can afford it and that even if he was just 'at it' he's still in need). I just felt that so often we can devote so much time to accomodating the difficult people in or around the church that we fail to notice or recognise the needs of those who are maybe not so obviously vulnerable but can be abused by this sort of behaviour.

I suppose what I've been pondering recently is our tendancy to reward bad behaviour (which most people would agree we shouldn't do with children, but so often we do it with adults in the name of being christianly and gracious). I know that this can also be taken to the other extreme where we end up with no grace at all so I think it all comes back to wisdom and balance and weighing up each situation individually to discern what's best for everyone involved/affected rather than having a general one-size-fits-all rule.

That's my waffle for the day -hope it made some sort of sense!!


David, your right! I once insisted on taking a guy to a cafe for food instead of giving him money. As he sat in the cafe in Byers Road, the guy behind the counter started to swear at me. " Get him F..... out of here. He's stinking, he'll sit here all day and I'll lose trade" The guy got out as quick as possible, just give me a couple of bob Jimmy - which i did out of shear embarrassment. We'd be a minister?


This is a difficult one. Personally I came to a decision a long time ago that if someone was desperate enough to ask me for money, I would give it to him/her (it's usually a 'him') and leave it up to him what he does with the money. This is not because I don't care if the money is used for drugs or drink, but because I feel I should show sufficient respect for a fellow human being to leave the decision up to him.

Not sure I'm doing the right thing, but I'm a big believer in free will so that's what I do.

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