“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
I have a burden for the homeless, my heart goes out to them every time I see someone roaming the dangerous streets of Houston, Texas. The Evangelist Malcolm Scott, Jr. once wrote that, “There is nothing worse then a burden less preacher” and cannot help but agree with him. And so if you should ask me what my burden is—it is for the invisible people, the homeless roaming the streets of America and the world today.
The other day I was forced to catch the Metro bus home due the fact that I had dropped my vehicle off the auto repair shop. My vehicle broke down on the freeway in ninety-plus weather. Distressed and brokenhearted I thought about how much it will cost me eventhough I do have a warranty. While I was riding on the bus feeling sorry for myself I noticed a man walking in the hot sun with grocery cart filled with his life’s belongings and right then and there God placed me back into the right perspective.
I thought to myself, I am on my way to a comfortable house, which has a rooftop, a refrigerator, a stove, and a central air system. But this man that few people even notice because he is invisible to them, has nowhere to go. Somewhere during the course of the week an officer with the Houston Police Department will run him away from a comfortable spot he found for the day, I know this will happen because this is a regular practice in large cities like Houston.
As I gazed at this brother, I wondered about his day. How many people did he approach for assistance today? How many people at least gave him a smile? The shelters in Houston, The Star of Hope, Salvation Army, and Goodwill, are so crowded until there is barely enough place left. Even if there were overnight shelter provided, soon as morning comes he would have to leave by 8 am and fend for himself the remainder of the day.
And so where did he sleep last night, and what did he eat? How many frowns did he see today, and how many ugly stares and scowls? I would note that in Houston, he is not allowed to use the so-called public restrooms in the downtown area and many other public places. Did anybody show him compassion or did they simply ignore him because they already judged him and found him unworthy? Here I am worried about my vehicle that is under warranty—and there is man who has nowhere to go and is most likely constantly judged for the condition he is in. What a spiritual awakening I received that day.
It really bothers me I will admit, when the so-called prosperity faith preachers condemn people of poverty and act as if being poor and is somehow a result of sin. One well-known electronic “name it and claim it” preacher once said during one of his you can be rich materially sermons, “poverty is a curse from God” but the fact is, it is NOT a matter of a curse either to be poor or to be rich in a physical way. It all depends on what God wants us to have at any given time in our lives. Our various phases of life that God allows us to enjoy or to endure are because of His blessing to all of us who know or endeavor to know His will, “The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and he bringeth up. The Lord maketh poor and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory" (I Samuel 2:6-8). There is nothing mentioned concerning poverty as being some sort of curse.
It is estimated there is well over 100 million homeless people worldwide. In America alone 16 million children are living in poverty and a large percentage of them are homeless children. Can you imagine a child being born homeless in the streets of your city? There are millions upon millions of reasons why they are homeless, to the point that we cannot become both judge and jury and attempt place them all under one umbrella and simply say it is because of some sort of sin they have committed or curse they are under. If this were the case almost every one of us would be homeless, because every one of us have fallen short of the glory of God.
Instead of condemning them I would love to see these electronic preachers following what the Lord says in Leviticus 25: 35 – 36, “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.” What this preacher I mentioned is advocating or implying is that society needs to overlook the poor and homeless because there is a spiritual matter involved as to why they roam the streets without a home and he will have to answer for planting this falsehood in the minds of his listeners. What do our city and civic leaders have to say about this? “We don’t want them scaring away our tourist because that means lost dollars for our precious city” is usually the response from the mayor, the city council, and many civic groups. The solution? Treat them as if they are invisible.
When some of us come in contact with a homeless person the encounter is a negative one. We frown when they dare invade our space by approaching us with the request for some spare change, we look down on them if they should smell of alcohol or worse urine, if their clothes are dirty and unkempt. We can’t understand why entire family would turn and old raggedy vehicle into their home. Our perception of the homeless derived from these encounters is sometimes innate.
The stereotype is passed on to other people and soon relationships between the homeless and others become stereotypical and we don’t want to have anything to do with them, we have a tendency of criticizing and judging things and people we don’t understand and so as a result they become the invisible and unwanted people of our society. There seems to be two Americas today, not simply north and south but visible and invisible, all because of our need to judge.
1.) God Cares For The Homeless; Why Don’t We?
All through God’s Word we find where the Lord cares for the outcast of this world. For example, we live in a society that is a definite respecter of person. We tend overlook the activities of few immoral people because of their social status, family heritage, political position, or position in the church but God said through the writer of Proverbs, “Better to be poor and honest than to be dishonest and a fool.” –Proverbs 19: 1
Almost everyone dreams of being rich someday, this is why national and state lotteries are so popular today. We think that having money and living “The Lifestyle of The Rich and Famous” is the answer to all our problems, we even daydream of what it would be like if we won the “Power Ball” next Saturday evening—when the see the homeless it reminds us of what we don’t want to be. For sure everybody loves a winner, but when you lose you lose a lot.
We as a nation just recently bailed out the big rich companies and corporations because they were identified as being just “too big to fail”—but why bail out the rich and refuse to bail out the poor? Why the double standard? Why such blatant hypocrisy? Are we saying that the rich are too important? Or maybe if help them (the rich) it will somehow trickle down to the average Joe? For some reason we love the rich and abhor the poor. They just may be “too big to fail” but our poor and our homeless are “too loved by the Lord” to be ignored.
When we see the rich and famous it reminds us of what we desire to be, but God said, “Better to be poor and honest than to be dishonest and rich” –Proverbs 28: 6. Why does the Lord keep saying that it’s better to be poor than this or that? Well, let’s look briefly at the story in Luke 16: 19 – 31 told by Jesus of “The Rich Man Lazarus (the beggar) in Abraham’s bosom” which speaks of the difference in life and death. In this story, the rich man was nameless and Lazarus was named.
The rich man was wealthy; Lazarus was poor. The rich man was healthy; Lazarus was weak and handicapped. The rich man ate like a king; Lazarus like a dog ate the scraps from under the rich man’s table. This happened while they both lived on earth. But when they both died the tides were turned. Lazarus the beggar was escorted to paradise; the rich man was buried and ended up in hell. The rich man enjoyed his glory on earth; Lazarus received glory in paradise. The rich man was now all alone; Lazarus the beggar now had fellowship in bosom of Abraham. The rich felt a burning sensation; Lazarus had all the water he could possibly drink. The rich man was tormented; Lazarus was comforted.
The rich man was unable to intercede for his family; Lazarus finally rested on the promises of God. The desire to live luxurious life while on earth pales immensely to that of life in heaven with God for eternity. Look how James describes this life on earth, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” –James 4: 4 (NIV)
No wonder the Lord keeps telling us it’s better to be poor godly and honest than live rich ungodly and crooked! People scream and cry over drug addict rock stars, movie stars, and hip-hop artist; and then judge, deplore, and look down on the invisible walking our streets, never giving it a second thought as to what God says about it.
2.) God Provides For The Homeless; Why Don’t We?
I recently watched a video the other day, which featured a homeless woman by the name of Theresa who lived in a tent city for the homeless outside of Seattle, Washington. The tent she lived in was a makeshift tent, not the kind you can purchase at Academy or Wal-Mart but it was her home. There was no running water or restrooms at this tent city but for some reason she was smiling all through her interview.
When the interviewer reminded Theresa of the poor conditions she was living in at this tent city her immediate was, “I’m alive” right then and there she reminded me of the Gospel song written and sung by the late Rev. Don Johnson, “I Can’t Complain.” In the parable of the Unjust Judge found in Luke 18: 2 – 8 (Read it when you have the opportunity), at the end of this parable verses 7 and 8 questions are asked of us, “…shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
In other words, will He find men and women with true faith or will He find hypocrites and pretenders? Now I really mean no ill will in saying this, but often wonder why most of us in the church wait until the end of the year to provide for needy? Why do we do this as if the poor and homeless were not around prior to the months of November and December? Why do we wait until this time, and then pat ourselves on the back during Sunday morning worship service as we give a report of the donations we made to the homeless shelters and such? Is this the kind of faith that Jesus will find when He returns? If God provides for the poor, needy, and homeless (Due to space and time please read Matthew 6:25-34) why can’t we do so on a continuous basis, not just during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons! It is not about bragging rights because you did feed and clothe the homeless, it’s about doing what the Lord would have us do regardless of the season. Think about this for a moment if you will, many of us are one or two paychecks away from being homeless ourselves. If God forbid this happens, how would you want to be treated? With compassion or disdain?
3.) God Wants Us To Respect The Poor and Homeless; Why Don’t We?
Did you know that God respects the poor and homeless, and He wants us to do the same? Wait a minute preacher, doesn’t the Bible say that, “God is no respecter of person?” Yes, but the true translation of this is God shows no partiality to anyone because of their social status or what race they happen to be, for example the Jews actually thought that God loved them more than He loved the Gentiles simply because they were Jewish. There are some pastors today who think that because they pastor over large congregations and great big mega churches, God somehow favors them over the pastor of a small congregation, and this is not true.
God does not show favoritism, and God also does not want us to show favoritism eventhough we do so everyday even in the Church. Pastors have their favorite associate ministers and deacons. Members have their favorite preachers and pastors, etc. Look what is said in the second chapter of James, "My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim that you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people more than others? For instance, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in shabby clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, 'You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor'—well, doesn't this discrimination show that you are guided by wrong motives?...
Yes indeed, it is good when you truly obey our Lord's royal command found in the Scriptures: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' But if you pay special attention to the rich, you are committing sin, for you are guilty of breaking that law" –James 2: 1 – 4, 8 – 9. Therefore God shows no favoritism like we often do. So when we read that God “…is no respecter” we have to place this in its proper context, it doesn’t mean that He doesn’t have respect for anyone, He respected Abel’s offering for example; but He disrespected Cain’s if that will help you.
He respects the lives of the poor, the needy, and homeless so much so until He issues us a warning if we should have a desire to mistreat them in any way, “Whoever makes fun of beggars insults their Maker. Whoever laughs at someone else’s trouble will be punished.”—Proverbs 17: 5 (ERV) what does this mean? It means that the poor, needy, and homeless need not fear that their lowly status disqualifies them from God’s grace, mercy, love, and protection. It means that unlike the world—God does not examine their pocketbooks and wallets but He does searches their hearts, no different than He searches those of us who are not living in the streets
Judging anyone, because of their status or otherwise is deplorable to God. Why? Well the reason is because when we do so we are actually lifting ourselves in the process. We boost our own self-image at the expense of others, we seem to enjoy tearing down others eventhough we don’t know their story. The young lady Theresa that I mentioned earlier had a story—and if she stood before your congregation one Sunday morning and told you about it, I am willing to guess that there be a dry eye in the house. Please don’t judge the invisible people roaming the streets today, take the plank out of your eye before you start trying to remove the speck out of theirs. Amen.