Tuesday, August 7, 2018


This ABC news report defines the problem:

When we were missionaries in Ethiopia, that nation had allowed beggars in their streets for a thousand years. It is a Middle Eastern phenomenon, just as it was during the lifetime of Jesus Christ. The beggars in Ethiopia were for real, but we were informed that there were professional beggars who put on beggar's clothes in the morning, begged all day, went home and changed, and went to eat in fancy tourist hotels and night clubs at night.

The reason for this is that the Ethiopian people are terrified of being known as selfish and stingy, so they are very generous to beggars. A beggar, unlike in America, has no other option. There is NO socialism and not alternative, so the beggars would literally starve to death if people were not generous.

So, we realized that we needed to be generous also. After all, we lived by faith in Jesus Christ, and he was limitlessly kind to the poor in his day. But, was there a way to tell the professional beggars from the truly needy.

1. Fake beggars go home at night.

One of our missionaries in Ethiopia would take food and blankets in his car at night and drive from one bus stop to another. He would find beggars, often women and children, sleeping in the covered bus waiting locations. He knew they were for real because they had no home to go to at night. He gave them food or whatever he had for beggars. One lady he found looked like a down country tribal person, and so he greeted her in that tribal language. She returned the greeting and started crying. She told him she had come to the capital city with a promise of work which did not pan out. She became destitute and living on the street. He arranged, the next day, for her to be transported back to her tribal area and home.

The moral of this point is that, if you want to make absolutely sure you are helping the needy, go downtown in the evening, and give food or clothing to people living on the street or under bridges. Right, it takes a bit of trouble and investment of time to make sure your good is not evil spoken of.

2. Fake beggars do not want food of clothing.

On every intersection in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia there are groups of kids begging. They run up to your car, especially if you are White, and they all have learned one line in English.... "No father, no mother, hungry today."

We were trying to think of a way to help the really needy kids because some of those young boys were placed there by either their parents or criminals who forced them to beg and bring the money to the thug. So, when we started a day of business and shopping, we bought a bag of Italian torpedo rolls and a bag of oranges or bananas. The average poor kid in Ethiopia may not eat an orange more than once every ten years. When the kids ran to our car during a red light time, we handed the bread and oranges out to them. The fake beggar kids ran to the next car, and the real beggar kids eyes got as big as saucers. It was a real rush to see those kids dig into an orange or a crusty Italian roll.

Thus, in the USA, make a point of taking snack food, especially protein, along when you go downtown. Include some cartons of drinks. When a beggar comes to your car, offer him the food and a drink, and you will soon learn who the fakes are. Also, when a beggar is posted near an eating place, take the time occasionally to park, and offer to take the beggar to eat a meal with you. The really needy people will be delighted. If they feel they will not be wanted in the eating place, do not make a civil rights event out of it. Tell them you will order something to go and bring it to them. The really needy ones will then be pleased and thankful.

3. Fake beggars avoid really poor beggars.

Fake beggars make really needy people feel resentful. The truly needy resent that a person with a car and home to go to every night is out there taking cash the needy could get. There is a territorial aspect to this begging, and certain beggars, for reasons known only to them, have staked claim to certain intersection corners. When a fake beggar takes a corner a needy person could use, that is wicked. This results in the fake beggar being avoided and standing alone. That is a clue you can use to determine who is really in need.

4. Fake beggars often look better than the truly homeless.

The phony beggars look better than the truly needy. Street people do not shave much, or at all. They do not get a bath every night. They do not have clean clothes because they do not own washing machines. When you look at beggars, it is quite fair to do some shrewd analysis of what you are looking at. It the beggar has leathery skin that looks a bit dirty, and they are scruffy in the face, you are very likely looking at the real thing.

This is why it is also very kind to take clothes and toiletries to clean up. 

We had hundreds of Ho Bo's stop by our home when I pastored a church on the Union Pacific Railway line in the California desert. One time, a man asked if he could clean up. He really needed it badly, but I could see beneath the crud that he was a bright eyed man, so I let him use the church restroom, which had a shower, to clean up. I gave him a razor, and when he came out he looked very civilized. I believe we also washed his clothes for him. I asked him why he was "on the road," and he said it was alcohol. He would sober up and stay dry for a time, and then he would lose it again. We talked with him about the help Christ could give him, and we gave him a Bible and things to read.

5. Fake beggars are not thankful.

They are guilty of working a scam on the public, and they know it. For this reason, they will have no feeling for you, and they will not show thankfulness. I have seen beggars get weepy and overcome with gratitude when someone gave them enough money to buy a meal, or better, gave them a new shirt of jacket. And, strangely, really needy people will very often start praising God. There is a lot more faith in God on that street corner than in the cars rolling by.

Now, there are some things you can do besides mock and complain. Griping about the fake beggars is simply a way for hypocrites to justify their stingy soul. Do not give way to this pious self-righteous trend to downgrade people in need just because some of them are fake. The man I told you about above, who helped the lady get back home, said, "I would rather help ten beggars, and find that nine of them were fake, than to miss helping number ten."

Please do not come to Jesus like this man:

Mark 10:17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

Help the needy this way:

Luke 14:12 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.
13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

Jack Johnson owned a missile parts making company. Whenever he saw a hitch hiker, he would pick the man up, give him the Gospel, and talk with him about life. If the man showed real desperation to escape from his life of dependence, Jack would get him cleaned up, put him in a rented room, and he would find him a job in one of several parking lots in downtown Los Angeles where he knew the owners. He would keep track of the men, and if they stuck it out, he moved them on to a better job that paid better and would really support them. Jack lead one such fellow to Christ on the way to prayer meeting one evening, and he brought him to church and introduced him as his new brother in Christ. The man showed clearly that he had been seriously affected by his new salvation, and Jack stayed with him later.

Here is a thought. I have never heard of anyone taking a street person to a ball game, a stock car race, or a concert. Think about what that would do for someone living on the street day after boring day.

I would wager that 90% of you reading here, if you were honest, could stand to part with $100 to a street person. What would that feel like? There is NO rush in this life bigger than seeing the face of a needy person or kid when they receive some big help.

You can find hundreds of videos online showing the gratefulness of street people for help.

Again, do not be one of those who use the fake beggars as an excuse for doing nothing for needy people. Take a street person to IHOP this week.