What does this mean? Should I give money to all the people holding signs on the streets? I’ve been doing this wrong my whole life. Is this saying to not hold back in giving?
Shocker. It’s the best way to describe the attitude that raged through my mind my freshman year of college when I realized King Benjamin spoke these words.
Somehow, though I finished the Book of Mormon for the first time at age 12, I was not aware of the benediction to so openly give to the hungry (perhaps because college was the first time I needed to worry about food for myself).
When I considered these verses at age 18, I thought of panhandlers, since those were the only beggars I knew of. I have explicitly contemplated Benjamin’s words regarding giving food. Of course, with age, my understanding of the verses has grown.
The Panhandling/ Beggar Food Dilemma
Since that time, I’ve dealt with inner turmoil regarding the meaning of the verses. I questioned what God wanted me to do to best help the hungry “beggar”.
Every time I saw someone on the street asking for help, I felt a twinge of guilt when I just drove by. A part of me wanted to trust that those asking me for food money wanted food. Another part of me worried that my money would be used for drugs or alcohol. I also wondered whether I was enabling or disabling an individual. On one hand, everyone needs to be served, and it can help us feel the love of Christ when others serve us. On the other hand, I wanted to teach a man to fish not just give him a fish, as the saying goes.
Sometimes, I ended up giving either food or money. And sometimes, I didn’t.
I think we all face this dilemma to some extent. Many people have different solutions to the problem. Some just carry around granola bars (or some other food), so they know how their service is being used. Others give money. Others just move on and help the hungry by paying fast offerings.
I can’t say that I know the correct approach in this situation. I don’t. In fact, even by researching, it was difficult for me to find conclusive information, so I could know what to do.
For instance, in a report done by the police force, it says the majority of panhandlers spend money on drugs. In another study, it says the majority spend money on food. There’s a poster at my college asking me not to give to panhandlers. Conflicting, isn’t it?
How to Help with Food Concerns
There is one thing I do know. God HAS asked us to help those who are hungry. The scriptures even state that if we think a man brought the problem on himself we still give, which means we shouldn’t be too harsh in our willingness to give.
I believe the decision on how to help is personal. It’s also probably situational (in other words, listen to the spirit).
But, what are some ways we can help without hurting those we are helping? What does it mean to give to a hungry beggar?
I’ve come to realize, based off the scriptures, that beggars are everyone. As we read further into Benjamin’s speech, he states, “Are we not all beggars?” This is true. We all face a point in our lives when we ask for help. We may plead with someone out loud, or we may silently plead with God. Each of us hunger in some way—aching for love, feeling ignored, wanting more gospel understanding, etc.
In this way, we ought to be able to relate to those hungering physically. We should feel concern for people panhandling and the people who never panhandle, yet are silently pleading with God for food.
One possible solution to help all those individuals is to participate in the Scouting for Food drive right now with our council.
The drive aids more than one type of “hungry beggars”. It assists those who need to take care of an essential basic for survival. It helps the teenage boy hungering to become his best-self. And, it rescues us in our desires to better serve Christ.
Last year, Scouting for Food provided over 1 million pounds of food to kids and adults in Utah, according to a speech given by Eagle Scout Matthew Cahoon at the Scouting for Food Kick-Off. He said 1 in 5 Utah children do not know where there next meal will come from.
We can help by putting out some bags of food donations this coming Saturday at 9 AM. We should not let a beggar’s petition for food go in vain.
According to the scriptures, if we do and do not repent then we “perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.”
Author: Michelle Carpenter | Marketing Associate, Utah National Parks Council.