Christians are called to love and care for the poor regardless of possible ulterior motives, homelessness researcher Kevin Corith said in response to a growing conversation on how Conservative Christians approach the homeless.
The discussion began with Daily Caller Editor W. James Antle's August 19 essay weighing the pros and cons of giving to homeless panhandlers on the street. Antle noted that there are many legitimate reasons to bypass the homeless, stating, "Many will use any cash they get to buy drugs or booze. Others may lie about their circumstances." Antle wrote that he gives selectively, noting, "Every panhandler I help could be a scam artist. But each one I pass by could be Jesus."
Corinth praised Antle for his account of "internal struggle regarding street homelessness" in a rebuttal article, but noted that "the truth is that some are scam artists, and many will do harm to themselves with the money. And yet every single one of them is Jesus. We are called to love scam artists and substance abusers just as much as we are called to love those poor people society deems more 'pure.'"
He explained further to The Christian Post, "The radical thing with Christianity is that all the walls are down. So even the woman who is separated from her husband who's fleeing domestic violence all the way to the crack addict looking for his next hit, all of those people we are called to love them so when we approach someone in the streets that's the approach and that's the heart we need to have when we interact with them."
Corinth encouraged Christians who encounter the homeless on the streets to acknowledge them as children of God who are worthy of love even though we may not understand the factors at play in their lives. He also encouraged them to act. Giving money is a biblical way to act on behalf of the poor. "When we give money we're sacrificially giving of ourselves and that does connote love," he reasoned. However Christians can also give of their time and things or even decline their requests.
"Money may not be the most effective way to help that person. I think the better way is to potentially decline the requests and potentially give food or share a meal or a cup of coffee with that person and get to know them, person to person, and if you don't have time for that, I think the better solution is to give to services that may be more effective and providing the things that they really need," he said.
The overall point, Corinth said, is not to simply ignore and avoid the poor.