What do you do when someone approaches you on the street and asks you for money? Because of the location where I work, I have that experience fairly regularly, and I must admit that my response is inconsistent. Sometimes, I give them money. Sometimes, I politely decline to give. And sometimes, I ignore them completely. What is the right way to handle that situation?
King Benjamin shared a set of principles which we can apply to these types of situations. Actually, these principles are applicable any time someone asks us for help, whether it be a friend, a family member, or a stranger:
- We need to take care of our families, providing food and clothing and teaching our children to love and serve one another (Mosiah 4:14-15).
- We should help people who are in need (Mosiah 4:16).
- We shouldn’t judge people who request our help or withhold assistance from them on the grounds that they brought this on themselves. We have all made poor decisions and needed help dealing with the consequences (Mosiah 4:17-23).
- If you’re unable to help someone, you ought to wish you could. King Benjamin tells us to think, “I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give” (Mosiah 4:24-25).
- Giving to the needy is more than handing out money. It’s “feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick,” and meeting other temporal and spiritual needs (Mosiah 4:26).
- We need to pace ourselves. Don’t try to do more than you can, but do what you can (Mosiah 4:27).
So what should you do if a beggar approaches you on the street (or if a friend or family member asks you for help)? Be kind. Think of them as your equal, not as inferior because of their situation. Help them to the degree that is possible, but don’t try to do more than you can. Try to understand their actual needs and to help meet them.
Today, I will be more responsive to people who need my help. I will remember the principles taught by King Benjamin as I strive to provide effective assistance.