Jesus said that we should give alms a certain way. He didn’t say it was optional, or we should do it when we feel like it, or if we think the person is worthy, or if we think the person is going to make right decisions in their life. Jesus say we are to do alms.
The problem of giving alms?
Alms means money today, probably because that’s the simplest thing to do. However, the word in the Bible means helpful mercies. That can be anything from a snack, a dinner, a coat, or a few dollars.
What should you give?
I believe that the most valuable thing you can give to someone who is homeless is your smiling face and some of your time. Take a moment to smile and see how they react. Take a moment to share your name and ask theirs. Offer that you will be praying for them in coming days (and do it… more of your time).
Giving through missional community
If you’re part of a missional community, you might consider inviting someone as alms safely to your community. Only do this if your group’s decorum allows, of course. In such a community, we all yearn to be known and to share some of what it means to be ourselves with others. This is often not available to someone who is homeless. That doesn’t mean they can take over your group, hog the conversation or be unsociable. All the rules of good group participation still apply, and you can gently ask everyone to follow the decorum of your group.
Giving alms is not the same as adopting someone as a project. We can typically only give small mercies to those in need. Jesus can heal, make whole, provide huge helps, and do more than we can ever imagine.
Terry Cole graduated with his MSEE from UT in 1987. He worked in high tech for 25 year, mostly at AMD. in 2008, Terry founded Street Youth Ministry to know, love and serve street-dependent young people. The ministry under Terry’s leadership serves 80 to 100 individuals every week in the UT Austin neighborhood and needs about 100 volunteers monthly. Terry has two daughters, ages 17 and 20, and is a member of Covenant Presbyterian Church.