Thursday, May 27, 2010

Christian Charity or Selling Out?

I hate it God,
No, I really do.
When people walk into the Church and begin with 'I don't want money' they almost always do, and I hate the 'game' that we have to play before they walk out in a huff (generally shouting obscenities or bewailing my lack Christianity), or I give in because I am just so weary of all the lies.

Today was a classic - I don't want money - I jut want food he said. I immediately offered to buy a weeks groceries at the shop opposite. No, that wasn't acceptable, his children were coeliac and he didn't know what to buy, could I give him the money so that he could take it home and his wife would buy it.
I told him no, and asked if he could he ring his wife so I could find out what she needed? No, he didn't think that would be a good idea, besides, he says, the food would be cheaper if it were bought in his local shop. etc etc etc. No matter what I tried to do, it quickly became obvious that the only thing that was going to be acceptable was the money that he had said he didn't want!

In the end of course, I am the bad person for wanting to actually buy the food, I was treating him like a criminal, I was insulting him by not trusting him etc etc etc I was a disgrace to Christianity for offering to buy the food instead of giving him the money. He left shouting abuse, and I am left feeling dirty, disgraced, angry and ashamed.

And.. God,  I am so weary of it all.
Tell me - what was I supposed to do? I have got to the stage where I no longer know what I am supposed to do.

Just give the money anyway - money that has come (often sacrificially) from pensioner's pockets - just hand it over to the con-man for his next fix of alcohol or drugs or tobacco or whatever else it is (credit for a mobile)?

Just give the money anyway -  on the grounds that if someone is so desperate that they have to try and con a Church they must be desperate indeed?

Just give it and forget about it - because he has asked for it? Even though we have none to give and what we have would undoubtedly be better spent on families here that have a real need?

Tell me God ? I really don't know anymore.
The presumption seems to be that all ministers are idiots, a soft touch, easy picking, fair game: That we don't have feelings, can't be hurt by groundless accusations, that its ok to lie about us, shout and rant and rave at us and call us everything under the sun when we don't give in to emotional or religious blackmail and give them the money they begin by saying they don't want!

Having to  live daily with these presumptions is a far cry from “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me."

I concede I'm just having a bad day God, but I'm not sure I know any more how to "Rejoice and be glad" or even care about how great my reward is in heaven" when such presumptions make such a hell of life on earth!

What I know is that this amount of anguish and emotional abuse has cost me far more than the £20.00 he would have accepted - but would I then have been selling my soul?


  1. I have been away this week so it was my husband who caught all the abuse when he offered to take someone where they needed to go but not to give them the money asked for. They are connected with the church and have been told we will not give money to him for some very good reasons. Sadly he then went to another leader who gave the money 'to get him out of my hair' despite a leadership decision not to do that so I despair with you....

  2. Sadly, such 'needs' can never be satisfied. If you had handed over money, there would be a risk that he'd come back in a few days or tell his friends to come. I know that you know these things; I mention them because I, too, used to struggle with them when I lived in Central London before I fell ill.

    I found myself wondering if the deeper issue was a sense of injustice that they saw - or at least perceived - that others had what they wanted and maybe even felt entitled to. Yet, more 'stuff' can never satisfy, for material things never lead to lasting happiness. Life can be easier with fewer material wants, especially when those wants are basic in nature. Yet, the more you have, the more you want.

    Falling ill reinforced for me that what truly gives meaning in life are the things that money can't buy - especially love. The material things that I have represent a challenge of stewardship - how do I use them as God intended? The most generous are often those who have the least, which I am sure is no coincidence.

    People like this man make you question whether the deeper issue is a void within; not a financial void but an emotional or spiritual one. These are things that few will share with others. Knowledge of the Christian message in our society is often selective and full of misunderstanding. Whilst Christians are charitable and hospitable, that doesn't mean that we hand out 20 pounds to anyone who badgers us with a well-rehearsed story. Our faith and mission doesn't give anyone the right to abuse our generosity.

    Maybe there is a link between this and your last post. Not only are you left with the emotional drain of this encounter, you have a sense that the Gospel would address his true needs if only he could step away from his story and open his heart. Indeed, in this busy and often lonely world, spending time with someone is more valuable than anything money can buy. Sadly, you cannot reach those who are not listening.

    I pray that the Lord will reach out to you on this bad day, also that he will show us a wise way to deal with these situations that appear to be beyond any earthly wisdom. I, too, struggle with situations where I am aware of a need that I do not know how to address.

    With my love and prayers for peace for us all,

    David Wood

  3. May tomorrow be a day of real blessing for you and those around you

  4. I do not believe we have to give in to con-men. As you say here, I was always acutely aware (and this is something I struggle with in a multiple of ways) that much of the "church's money" came from pensioners and/or people who made less than my stipend.

    I think that Anonymous gave probably the best answer here and maybe the following comment is not helpful, but the book "A Failure of Nerve" ( actually helped me to be quite clear that it's not the job of a circuit minister to enable con-(wo)men or sociopaths.

  5. I really do sympathise Julie - thanks for the comment it emphasises how common the problem is.
    Thanks Dave, thanks Pam for the comments and support.
    I will certainly look up the book Pam,
    Like you I don't believe it is my 'job' to enable con-(wo)men or sociopaths, but there are a frighteningly large number of them who seem to think it is.. It's one of the downsides to having a great cafe as part of the Church.
    The hard part about all this is that I genuinely feel for those who waste their lives in this way, but I have yet to meet a single one of them who actually wants to change!
    I have always believed that humanity is only as evolved as the basest of us - and while we still have so many people who choose to be this parasitic on the rest of humanity, we are falling a long way short of perfection!
    To play my part in lifting our fallen sisters and brothers I guess I will need to dig deeper from the well of grace and find an answer and response that is more genuinely gospel and less of a hand out or cop-out.
    Tough love!

  6. I don't get a lot of this. But today (bank holiday) got someone at the door at 8:20am (well known to me).

    This one is a challenge as I know that if I say no they will go to some very elderly and vulnerable members of the Church and ask for money from them (one of the differences of a small town context).

    Anyway I said I would get food (have in the past topped up electricity card and also given cash) and take it round tomorrow as bank holiday today.

    At 9:20am got a phone call from same person.

    At 11am they came around again wanting money.

    Early evening I tried to deliver a couple of bags of food basics but they were out. Eventually managed to deliver them at around 10pm (later than I wanted but had to collect a son from Northampton).

    Round here I will almost always know the person and so it is quite different to a city environment. However, it does not make it easy as there are clearly issues with where money might be spent but also the issues for other vulnerable people in our community.