How to Live Out Proverbs 31:20

Do you ever have those times when you’re really surprised by what someone believes? Well what happened the other day was surprising to me, and it was tremendously hard for me to hold my tongue. I think the most unsettling part of the whole situation was the fact that this Christian person was bashing homeless people.

Her statement went along the lines of, “she couldn’t stand how they stood on the corners trying to get money, that they made so much money, and that they all choose to be homeless. Hearing these words really broke my heart, because I started wondering how many other Christians are so uneducated about this topic.

Working in the ER, I can tell you I have first hand experience with the homeless. I also spent a lot of time volunteering at homeless shelters while I was in college, and I actually recently went to work at an overflow shelter in downtown St. Louis.

First, let’s get some recent statistics under our belt.

  • On a single night in 2017, 553,742 people were experiencing homelessness in the United States. (Henry et al., 2018)
  • Homelessness increased in 2017 for the first time in over seven years. (Henry et al., 2018)
  • There are more homeless people that are white in the United States than of any other race. (Henry et al., 2018)
  • 40,056 of the homeless in 2017 are veterans. (Henry et al., 2018)
  • 7% of the homeless population are “unaccompanied youth”. (Henry et al., 2018)
  • 193,000 people did not have access to shelters in the United States in a given night. (Weber and Mulvihill, 2017)
  • 33% of homeless people in 2014 had severe mental illness that was untreated. (Mondics, 2018)
  • More than half of the homeless population have one or more chronic diseases. (Nhchc.org, 2018)


Reading these statistics shocked me, and I consider myself to be somewhat informed. It reminded me of how many people’s stories I have heard that are homeless. Also, the reality of how demeaning and humbling it is to be homeless.

Now that we've read some recent statistics, I think it is crucial for us to see what God thinks about the homeless, and how he would like us to treat them. Here are ten verses that reveal God's heart for the poor and homeless people in our world. 

She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.
Proverbs 31:20

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Isaiah 58:7

But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Luke 14:13-14

(Here's a link to a very amazing story about a women donating her wedding reception after her soon to be husband got cold feet. Her story reminded me of this verse:

If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you.
Leviticus 25:35-36

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.
Proverbs 19:17

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? ...
Matthew 25:34-40

Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.
Proverbs 21:13

And one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
James 2:16

A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge. 
Proverbs 29:7

But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?
1 John 3:17

Each of these verses is super convicting, and these verses are how we're supposed to act towards homeless and poor individuals. It's that cut and dry, but we still don't live it out. Although, I've helped people that are in need, I still have a hard time following these verses. I fall short very often and disregard what the Holy Spirit is leading me to do on many occasions. That doesn't mean that we should just stop trying or give up though.  

 

One of the stories that I will share was from my most recent experience, while I was volunteering in the middle of the night at an overflow shelter in St. Louis. Upon arriving at the homeless shelter, I noticed how not only the homeless were exhausted but the workers were as well. These fellow Christian men and women had been losing sleep for weeks to keep the shelter afloat, and to think that some Christian’s don’t even care to know the truth about homelessness in our country.

That reminds me of the verse,
“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”
Matthew 9:37

That verse is such a reality today, and I see it all too often. It makes me sad to see so many Christians bursting with the Holy Spirit and the Gospel, but it all terminates on themselves. It blows my mind every time. This is beside the point, but is something that really causes me grief.

Once we received a tour of the facility, my husband, Alex, and I were assigned to look after the sleeping area and the kitchen. I mostly chose this role, because I knew if anyone stopped breathing in the middle of the night, started seizing, pooped, peed, or vomited then I would know what to do. From the statistics earlier, many homeless people have chronic disabilities and diseases, that they cannot keep up with.

During the night, we only had one person vomit, one person pee the bed, and I did have to help a lady who was having some health issues in the bathroom. Overall, it was a pretty docile night, compared to the usual ER stuff I have seen in the past. The one thing that did stick out to me, was that multiple of the homeless men wanted a way out. They didn’t want to be homeless, but they obviously had some disabilities, whether mentally or physically. Most of the time that is the attitude of the homeless people I’ve come into contact with, and it is hard for them to find a way out of their situation. They do not know how to beat the addiction, how to find affordable healthcare and medicine. It is an uphill battle, and not to mention that they already feel hopeless and belittled by our society.

So, instead of getting angry or frustrated by the homeless, why don’t we help them and show them the love of Christ? I think my biggest question is have you ever talked to a homeless person? I mean, really talked to a homeless person? Do you know a homeless person? And how can you help someone in need right where you live? 


References

Henry, M., Watt, R., Rosenthal, L. and Shivji, A. (2018). Cite a Website - Cite This For Me. [online] Hudexchange.info. Available at: https://www.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/2017-AHAR-Part-1.pdf [Accessed 2 Feb. 2018].
Mondics, J. (2018). How Many People with Serious Mental Illness Are Homeless? - Treatment Advocacy Center. [online] Treatmentadvocacycenter.org. Available at: http://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org/fixing-the-system/features-and-news/2596-how-many-people-with-serious-mental-illness-are-homeless [Accessed 2 Feb. 2018].
Nhchc.org. (2018). Cite a Website - Cite This For Me. [online] Available at: http://www.nhchc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/chronic-disease-combo-hch-conf-es.pdf [Accessed 2 Feb. 2018].

Weber, C. and Mulvihill, G. (2017). America's Homeless Population Rises for the First Time in Years. [online] U.S. News and World Report. Available at: https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2017-12-06/us-homeless-count-rises-pushed-by-crisis-on-the-west-coast [Accessed 2 Feb. 2018].

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