It was a cold, fall morning as we pulled up to church and were just a bit late (Mormon Standard Time). As I was unbuckling my seatbelt, I looked up and noticed someone out under the pavilion. He was wearing shabby clothing and it looked like he was cooking on the barbeque grill.
My thoughts were: “I wonder if he’s o.k., or if he needs some type of assistance.” followed by “We’re late for church and he’s shabby and dirty and what if he turns out to be a psycho like that Elisabeth Smart guy…” followed by “Dude, you’re on your way to church and you will learn about helping those in need. What hypocrite would you be to walk past this guy and then go study about Jesus. Didn’t Jesus say to help those in need and love your neighbor?”
The words of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon also came to mind. In Mosiah Chapter 4 he says:
16 And also, ye yourselves will asuccor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the bbeggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.17 Perhaps thou shalt asay: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.19 For behold, are we not all abeggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a aremission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his bSpirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with cjoy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to aimpart of the substance that ye have one to another.22 And if ye ajudge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your bcondemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life cbelongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.23 I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are arich as pertaining to the things of this world.
I decided to follow the last inside voice and told my wife I’d be right back and walked towards the gentleman.
As I walked over to the gentleman, I noticed he had a bicycle and a trailer with all of his belongings in them. I greeted him and asked him his name. He told me his name was Bill and we started talking. I watched him roll his cigarrete as he told me he was homeless and had chosen to be so. He explained of how he had been baptized in 1972 in California, and made it up to the Seattle area, where we live.
As he described his circumstances I tried to imagine what it must be like to live in the cold, especially during the rainy winters in Seattle. My heart went out to him, and he further explained how he wanted to get a Bible and Book of Mormon and that he wasn’t there to mooch off of anyone, but wanted spiritual nourishment. He had chosen to be homeless rather than live in the shelters where drugs and other bad influences were, and he wanted to come to church to feel closer to God and cleanse his inner soul. He even showed me his church clothes he had specially packed in his trailer. I told him he would be welcome in church and that I’d connect him with our bishop and also with a set of scriptures.
He came to church and participated in both sacrament meeting and the Gospel Principles class and even shared some of his experiences with faith. He was able to get some scriptures and waved and thanked me when church was over.
As we drove home, I felt glad to have helped him and prayed for his safety and spiritual strength. However, my thoughts also turned to the Elizabeth Smart case once again and how the person who had abducted her was a homeless guy that her father had brought home to help.
The questions came to mind “How can we help our neighbors and still be wary of the safety of our families and those around us?” “How can we avoid being manipulated?” “Should we just follow our hearts and help those in need without thinking of possible consequences?”
Jesus gives us the answers to some of these questions in Matthew chapter 25. He says about those who help the needy:
35 For I was an ahungred, and ye bgave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a cstranger, and ye took me in:
42 For I was an ahungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Personally, I feel it is very important to help those in need and give them support as Jesus and King Benjamin admonish us to. However, we do need to be wary if we’re not sure we can trust the individual of how much information we give them and allow them to come into our lives. “Taking someone in” as Jesus suggests doesn’t mean (in my opinion) bringing them into your home and giving them full access to everything. It means finding a place to give them shelter, giving them a good meal, helping them find a job, etc. I am very happy to help people and love them, but love and trust are not the same thing.
My reasons for doing this could be viewed as fear-based and I realize that fear is the opposite of faith. I could see how someone would say that if we don’t bring someone in and treat them like a brother, that is lacking in faith. My opinion is that helping people while still being cautious until they’ve proved trustworthy is being wise…not fearful.
How do you feel about this and what do you do to help those in need?