Beatitudes, Beggars, and Bezos: Are We Down with Orthopraxy?

Beatitudes, Beggars, and Bezos: Are We Down with Orthopraxy? November 24, 2019
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

When I give charitably, I never think I am doing enough. Do you ever think that way? Do you ever think to yourself: “I know I could give more, but I would have to make personal sacrifices that I am not comfortable with.”? Maybe it’s just me?

Realistically, I don’t think it’s just me. I imagine that is why so many people took to their Twitter and Facebook this past week to vent their frustrations. What was the frustrating outrage of the moment? Amazon CEO and world’s 2nd richest billionaire Jeff Bezos had the audacity to donate $100 million to various charities geared at helping the homeless. What a jerk! Am I right?

Here’s a question: Why don’t we invite a homeless person in to live with us when we pass them by and hear them beg for help? “Give to everyone who begs of you,” Jesus proclaims in the Gospel of Luke. “From anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.” I am inclined to point out that we often dismiss much of the Beatitudes of Luke and Matthew.

It’s amazing that those of us that follow Christian prescriptions, those of us who claim that we have a Christ-centered lens aren’t all running around inviting the homeless into our homes to end the problem once and for all. Jeff Bezos wouldn’t even need to be donating a dime if we were actually living out the Christian life that we claim to value and embrace.

I don’t really care, if in retrospect, the amount Bezos donated doesn’t amount to even a full percent of his accumulated wealth—it sure is a hell of a lot more money than I fathom I will ever be able to give in my entire lifetime. So, who am I to judge?

Well, we Christians, especially Progressive Christians, are never satisfied with what someone else did for efforts to combating social issues, are we? So, we have good cause to judge, don’t we?

We shake our social media status updates in the cyber air, and we proclaim that such deeds are just not good enough. But I ask: Which of you donated 100 million dollars this year or any other years combined? And for those of you who have not donated that much; why are you so selfish?

On days that I have zero cash on me, when I am also passing by someone begging for money, I turn away. Do you ever do that? It’s a dual humiliation for me. I am humiliated that I have nothing on me to hand out to someone in need. I am humiliated that I cannot even look them in the eye or acknowledge their presence because I think I have nothing to offer.

I am also humiliated on their behalf, on God’s behalf. This is not how people should live. I cannot imagine what strength and courage it takes to ask random passer-byers for money to get through another night. If I cannot help, I turn away. I pretend I do not see them. Later, I will beat myself up about it. I will remind myself that I had a trunk full of groceries. Even if I didn’t have cash, I could have offered him food or a blanket or something. I aim to be more intentional about carrying cash for instances like that, but then I forget all over again, and the cycle repeats.

If I don’t think I am doing enough, why haven’t I changed that? Why haven’t I gone the extra mile? Why haven’t I really acted out my beliefs? Could it be that some of us are more concerned with orthodoxy than we are orthopraxy?

Reading through Luke’s Gospel, however, triggered a thought that I have recalled before. Why are we not inviting homeless people into our homes to end homelessness one person at a time? Don’t worry, I already know why—no reason for you to start listing off all the excuses you have to invite some stranger into your home. Even though we have been screaming for America to open her door and let in all the strangers from foreign lands. I mean, it’s different when it’s literally our homes, right? It’s not the same.

Think about this; at a time in our society when we are at the height of disconnection as we know it, instead of creating a connection and practicing our Christianity, we would much rather ridicule others who are doing something to contribute to the reduction of homelessness. Couple that with the billionaires that step in to ensure cities have safe drinking water, right here in the United States. Why are we not praising them and imitating them? Who are you to decide what each person should give, anyway?

Meanwhile, the streets in many major cities are being overrun by literal feces because the homelessness rate is on the rise. And instead of making use of the additional space in our homes, because on average, we all have more space than we need; we complain about the size of the house someone else has. And without an ounce of consideration that there are people literally living in tents or boxes.

It seems to me we aren’t too keen on the idea of “giving to everyone who begs of” us.  The irony is that we are often the voice of the silent beggars and yet we scowl at billionaires who step in an contribute to a cause the government has continuously failed to address or decrease.

I submit, that if you are truly concerned about the homeless, you would start inviting these individuals into your homes and do what you could to practice the Christianese that you are so enamored with identifying as your core belief system. Just an idea. An idea I am going to consider deeply.

 

About Danielle Kingstrom
"Don't be caught anywhere near a pile of mashed potatoes around Thanksgiving. M'kay?"

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • John

    Have you ever worked with the homeless closely and for any length of time? You will discover a multitude of problems that might make it unwise to have them live with you. Your challenge is laudable but should be approached with caution. It is easy to rally behind a good cause, but the reality can be quite different.

  • Joseph Douglas

    Great article Danielle! We are constantly faced with the challenge of obeying God’s commands. Jesus tells us to do to others as we want done to ourselves. I always ask myself, if I was homeless, what would I want someone to do for me? Give me a place to stay! As a new Christian 40 years ago, it occurred to me that the homeless problem could be solved immediately by Christians bringing needy people into our homes. I tried that a couple of times…on one occasion my most cherished possession, a camera, was stolen. I got the camera back in a miraculous way, but I was not prepared to do anymore hosting, especially after I got married. Now that the kids are grown, we have a couple of extra rooms that we could use to help someone, but who wants to deal with the problems? A recent news report told about an 80-year-old who welcomed a homeless guy into his home, only to get killed by his guest with a machete!!! There is a new movie on Netflix , ‘Same Kind of Different As Me,’ about a couple who develops a relationship with a homeless man that ends on an encouraging note, but it was a rocky road. I applaud Jeff Bezos’ gesture and I hope others will follow suit. We are all called to help others, and we should do our best to obey that call.

  • Joseph Douglas

    Speaking of feces on the sidewalk, one way to address this problem is to rent porta-potties and place them in areas frequented by homeless people. The Holy Spirit gave me this idea some time ago, but so far, I have done nothing to make it happen. This is something that individuals and churches can do immediately.

  • festeris

    In Rhode Island, where I live, there is an organization called Little Flower Home. We take in homeless pregnant women and support them through their pregnancies and 3 months postpartum. LFH partners with Bethany Christian Services, whose social workers connect our women with support services and help eventually with finding affordable housing. I have been a host for five years, and am alive to tell you about it, although I am missing some heirloom silver, jewelry and cash. BCS is a worldwide organization; perhaps they have programs in your area.

  • Jeremy Provence

    To be clear here Bazos is a prime benefactor
    of the flawed system we live under, if you buy a sleeping bag on Amazon for a homeless person, Bazos profits. And the millions of dollars that are funneled into his account from the economy every day, how many fewer homeless would there be if this funneling just stopped? He is part of the problem, I see this donation as blood money,
    That is highly controlled, and calculated to benefit Bazos. It is to easy to blame the abused for their own abuse . Point is to stop our part in being the problem, and love our neighbor. The solution.

  • Steven Waling

    When Amazon start paying their taxes I’ll start thinking Bezos is anything more than a billionaire raking it in at the expense of the poor.

  • drdon

    Read Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Strangers at my Door: A True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected Guests. He and his wife did it, in Durham, NC. Powerful story.

  • Instead of taking on homeless strangers when we feel a twinge of guilt, why not share generously with friends who are in times of trouble or financial upheaval? If you have room for a random homeless person, you have room for a friend in need. Start there. Put yourself out there and your guest room too. Use informal networks to establish a pattern of openness and generosity, and the person you are hosting may end up just temporarily homeless instead of permanently homeless. My family has done this very thing, short-term, twice. Would gladly do again.

  • fractal

    Anderson Cooper interviewed a professor who had studied homelessness for 35 years.

    His viewpoint was that the sharp uptick in homelessness is due to real estate corporations being greedy profit-mongers who don’t CARE if their razing of neighborhoods to put in gentrified luxury apartments makes many workaday people homeless.

    Yes, some homeless people are mentally ill and/or addicted.
    However, a number of homeless people become addicted or mentally unstable after they lose their homes, not before.

    This notion that all the homeless are wacko, is just not so; just like it wasn’t so during the Great Depression.

  • fractal

    Convenient and safe.
    Not very Christian though…

  • Who are you to condescend to me?
    I see that you spread discord on several of these Patheos blogs.
    Get thee behind me already.

  • fractal

    Pretty defensive.
    Tell me,
    WWJD?

    Oh, we already know what he told us all to do!
    And it wasn’t to keep your charity tribal.

  • silicon28

    Yeah, he / she loves to troll to get some kind of reaction or rise. I call it the “stray cat rule” – the more you feed them, the longer they will hang around.

  • fractal

    Why is it Fundigelicals cannot tolerate any criticism or opposing viewpoint?

    Is it their rigid and angry personalities?
    Their flaming amygdala?
    Their tendency for cult worship?
    The insecurity that comes from knowing that their assertion theology cannot be proven, and is quickly becoming quaint and stale?

    WWJD?

  • Jay Hansen

    WWJD? If he returned, he would be crucified by his erstwhile followers, THAT’s what he would do.

  • fractal

    Nope—
    That is what his Fundigelical FOLLOWERS would do.

    Jesus would tell them that acts of love toward a stranger is the highest form of love.
    Someone you will probably never get to know, or see the results of your actions.

    Much easier to love—or at least feel guilt about—people who look like you, talk like you and think like you.
    And even easier to love a fetus—that imaginary playmate upon whom you can project all your unresolved feewings of helplessness and lost innocence.

  • Jay Hansen

    Evilangelicals ARE his erstwhile followers. They’d have him nailed to a cross quicker than you could slap a tick.

  • fractal

    Absolutely!
    But there are progressive people that likes what Jesus says—the “good works” humanist crowd.
    And if you just read the words of Jesus, with a really open mind concerning the interpretation, he is pretty Gandhiesque.

  • Jay Hansen

    Gandhi said “I like your Christ, but I have no use for your Christians”.

  • Jay Hansen

    Absolutely. I am quite a devoted follower of the Galilean Chasid, Rabbi Yeshua, but I am neither a Christian nor a Messianic Jew. In short, do what he said and forget about the theological mumbo jumbo that has infected Christianity.

  • silicon28

    Nope… Not gonna play your game. Find someone else to insult and get attention from.

  • Maybe because your criticism lacks compassion and consideration? Have you considered a different approach that greets people with differing views as you in the same manner that Jesus would greet them? Start there. Ask questions to clarify. Attacking others for what they are not doing according to what you think should be done is just as ego-centric. Don’t you think you could make these comments more productive and loving if you stepped back and breathed a bit before letting your ego respond? Just an idea.

  • Nixon is Lord

    There is no god; you’re both pretending to have a better invisible friend.

  • Nixon is Lord

    Suppose you regard the Fundiegelicals as the opposite side of the coin of the “progressive” mainline?

  • Nixon is Lord

    If you don’t think he was ever here in the first place, how do you think you’ll convince me he’s going to return?

  • Nixon is Lord

    OK-I have little to no use for Gandhi’s Hindus, either. Ridiculous, burger on the hoof worshipping twits.

  • Jay Hansen

    He was here, but he’s not returning. Oh, and urine idiot.

  • Jay Hansen

    Don’t be caught anywhere near a pile of mashed potatoes around Thanksgiving. M’kay?