What Does the Bible Say About the Homeless and Homelessness?

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What Does the Bible Say About the Homeless and Homelessness?

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What Does the Bible Say About the Homeless and Homelessness?

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The Bible states that the poor will be with us always (Mark 14:7 Mark 14:7For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you will you may do them good: but me you have not always.
American King James Version×
). There will always be those who, as a result of their own actions, or actions that are out of their control, find themselves in dire economic straits and wind up with an inability to provide for their basic necessities.

As Christians we absolutely need to care for those who are in need—the difficulty is determining who is truly needy.

The Bible admonishes us repeatedly to care for the poor among us. In ancient Israel, God had a system in place where those who had a loss of economic opportunity could sign on to work with someone for a period of time, trading their labor for a roof over their head and meals. After a six-year period of service, they were released on the seventh year and received a jumpstart on getting themselves reset financially (Deuteronomy 15:10-11 Deuteronomy 15:10-11 [10] You shall surely give him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him: because that for this thing the LORD your God shall bless you in all your works, and in all that you put your hand to. [11] For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command you, saying, You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor, and to your needy, in your land.
American King James Version×
). Additionally, there were land Sabbaths built into the national system, and during those land Sabbaths while the land was not sown or worked, what grew naturally was to be gleaned by the poor, as it wasn’t harvested. Additionally, every 50th year (that is, after seven cycles of seven years), was the Jubilee year when all outstanding debts were forgiven, and all properties returned to their original owners (Leviticus 25).

It appears from these examples in Scripture that it was not God’s intention that people find themselves indebted in such a way that they could never recover.

Throughout the Bible are admonitions to care for the poor and to care for those who are in need. It becomes clear that it is also God’s intent that we do what we can to care for those who are poor and are in need.

Responsibility to work

However, the apostle Paul explained another aspect we must consider: “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10 2 Thessalonians 3:10For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
American King James Version×
, King James Version).

Paul is addressing the church in Thessalonica, where there were some who were idle and refused to work, instead choosing to be busybodies in other people’s affairs. He instructed them not to provide them with church aid unless they were willing to work to contribute.

And therein lies the biggest difficulty with the homeless issue in America today. There are some who are legitimately in need—who despite all of their hard work and effort have fallen on difficult times. They are in need of a helping hand to get themselves back up on their feet. On the other end of that spectrum are those individuals who have chosen not to work, instead choosing to panhandle, or solicit funds from passers-by. There are also those who take the money they do receive from others and use it to purchase drugs and alcohol to feed addictions, or attempt to medicate their mental illnesses.

It can be very difficult to discern at times who is truly needy, and who is taking advantage of the generosity of others. The question we must ask ourselves is whether we are truly helping, or whether our support is enabling and exacerbating an existing issue of some variety.

The Bible is clear: it is expected that we will care for the poor and needy among us. But we are also admonished not to contribute to those that refuse to work.

A number of social programs in the United States and other countries have been developed that are designed to provide for those who are struggling. In some cases, those social programs are not enough and additional assistance is necessary. Discernment and wisdom is required, however, as it can be very easy for us to do more harm than good in our desire to help.

If you desire to help, there are ways to become involved. You could volunteer at your local soup kitchen, make a donation to the Union Gospel Mission or similar programs, or make up supply baskets to give to those who are truly in need.

As Christians we absolutely need to care for those who are in need—the difficulty is determining who is truly needy.

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