Sheryl is homeless and lives out of her car. She gets a little money from social security and is thrilled to have enough money to have a car (home) and pay for the insurance and registration. When I met her, she was by the east entrance of the City Creek Shopping Center. There was a security guard standing close by. When I stopped to talk, she told me about how she was being harassed for begging outside City Creek. I asked if I could take her picture. When I lifted my camera, the security guard hid his face, turned his back, and began walking away.
We met Dale between City Creek and Temple Square. I asked him what happened to his leg. Some time ago, while sitting at a desk, he passed out. When he was found, his leg was jammed in an awkward position. He lost the bottom half of his leg. Dale held a sign that said, “PLEASE HELP OUT THIS CRIPPLED STUBBURN OLE GOAT.” I suggested that he make a sign that reads, “Please help out this ole man that doesn’t have a leg to stand on.” We both laughed. I asked Dale if they allow him to panhandle on Temple Square or City Creek. He said that it wasn’t permitted.
How we treat the beggars is more of a reflection on us than it is on them. Christ teaches us how we are to treat the beggars.
Ye are All Beggars
16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
Why does Christ ask us to give of our substance to those who ask for it?
17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
Is it our place to determine if the beggar is worthy of his/her request? Do we ever bring misery upon ourselves? How generous do we want Christ to be with us?
Why do we need to repent of our tightfisted attitudes? Why are the stingy people denied access into the kingdom of God? Is God going to be merciful to those who demand a just punishment?
19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
What makes us beggars? Do we really own anything?
20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.
Do I deserve the misery I’ve brought upon myself? Why do I need to beg for mercy? What will happen if I do not receive a remission of my sins? Do I want a just punishment?
21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.
How generous is God? Do I want to be like him? Why would I withhold when I have the capacity to give? Didn’t he tell me that the merciful shall obtain mercy?
22 And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.
23 I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.
Are we given riches because we are privileged? Or are our riches given as a test? How are we doing? Do we treat others as we would have God treat us? Do we realize that which we do send out shall return unto us again? Mosiah 4:16-23
Lazarus and a Certain Rich Man
19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
What is the significance of being clothed in purple? See Seller of Purple Did the rich man think he had obtained privilege with God because of his luxurious lifestyle?
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
What was Lazarus’ public image? Why was Lazarus required to remain outside the gate? Who’s gate? Why was Lazarus put to shame and reduced to begging? How would you look upon Lazarus? What is the image created by dogs licking his sores? See Lazarus and the Compassionate Dogs
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
Why was Lazarus carried by angels, but the rich man was buried? Why was Lazarus brought into Abraham’s bosom? What does that mean? Why is the beggar known by name and the rich man is nameless?
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
How does covenantal water cool the tongue? What put the rich man to shame and reduced him to begging? Do we see our plight?
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Does our bounty in this life reflect our reward in the next life? Who does Lazarus represent? What is this great gulf that divides the wicked from the righteous? Why can’t Lazarus help the rich man?
27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. Luke 16:19-31
If those who refuse the beggar could see their afterlife would they act differently? How does wealth blind the rich man and lead him down to hell? What is the name of the one who rose from the dead? Why won’t the rich listen to God’s prophets?
Ye Have Done It Unto Me
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
What separates the sheep from the goats? Are some people going to be surprised?
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Do the righteous see their Lord in the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, prisoner, and beggar?
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
Do the proud and wicked see their Lord in the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, prisoner, and beggar? Why not?
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. Matthew 25:31-46
If how we treat others is the determining factor between being blessed and cursed, why aren’t we more generous? Why do we hoard our riches when so much is at stake? I can see my error in my attachment to what I thought belonged to me. I have felt a strong desire to repent.
The church that bears Christ’s name also has a great need to repent. This is FAIR's Apologetic response to those who are critical of the City Creek project:
”Some have insisted that funds would be better if directed to charitable works such as feeding the poor. The Church does have an extensive humanitarian effort. Critics on this point often overlook the fact that Church funds are best managed not by sitting in a bank account, but through prudent investment. Investment in land and real estate development is often a wise and ultimately profitable investment approach.
It is entirely possible that the City Creek Center Mall will eventually become a money making venture, as the Church collects rent from mall merchants. This investment strategy would allow the Church to, over time, recoup its initial outlay or even make money that could be further dedicated to the Church's religious and humanitarian goals.
Critics also overlook the fact that if money is spent to feed the needy, that money is gone. On the other hand, if the Church reinvests in Salt Lake City's downtown core, this provides jobs and economic stimulus (for example, via construction and then the service-industry jobs which will fill the mall upon its completion). While providing fewer short term gains, this long term "teach a man to fish" strategy could ultimately benefit many more people, by allowing them to "help themselves."
I am concerned about the attitudes held by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I belong to this church and see that we have not used our vast resources to feed the hungry, quench the thirst of those without water, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit and liberate the prisoner, and give to the beggar. We won’t even allow beggars to put up their petition in vain because they aren’t allowed on church owned property. They are required to stay outside the gate.
If Jesus Christ was in charge of this church, do you think he would let the beggars on temple grounds? Do you think he would build luxury shopping malls and rob the poor? Do you think he would set up boundaries and hire guards to intimidate the beggars?