The other day, I drove into Houston to pick up a friend for lunch. He works in a large office tower on the Southwest Freeway in a very busy part of town. The restaurant was on the opposite side of the freeway, so we had to stop at an intersection before we could turn under the freeway. Several homeless men approached my car. One had a spray bottle of water and a squeegee to wash my windows. The other man had a piece of cardboard that asked for a donation. The scene was a bit intimidating, but that’s life in the big city.
After lunch, I dropped off my friend, but had to go through the same intersection to return home. By now the noon rush was over, and it was siesta time. I stopped for the light, and sure enough, there were those same two beggars laying under the bridge on comfy mats with their heads on their backpacks. They both had iPads on their chest and earbuds in their ears. Life is good in Houston, Texas.
A recent published study revealed that the average street beggar in the USA can average about $15 per hour, or $30,000 per year. Some of the more creative beggars can get even more than that if they can sing, dance, or play the violin. Adding a monkey to the act could bring in more income, but then you lose some revenue due to the care and feeding of the monkey. Also, since I doubt that the gentlemen of the intersection put those donated funds on their Form 1040 EZ, we can assume that they have tax free income. I love America!
Mendicancy can be found in almost every culture and country of the world. Stroll the streets of Manila, Quito, Beijing, New Delhi, Oslo, or Los Angeles, and you will find beggars of every gender and age. In some countries, the beggars have organized into groups, locations, and specialties. A group of beggars in Zhengzhou, China, are enjoying a lavish lifestyle at five-star hotels as well as shopping at high-end branded shops, reported Nanyang Siang Pau of asiaone publication. Some of the beggars would pretend to be sick and lay on the ground crying in pain while another beggar would plead for money to help their “mother.” "They have damaged trust in society," said Li Qiang, a professor in sociology at Qinghua University.
Beggars are seldom mentioned in the Old Testament because the Law of Moses made provision for them. They had access to the fields to take produce as needed. So begging was generally considered something only wicked or evil people had to do to survive. Psalm 37:25 NIV, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”
In the New Testament, beggars were usually people with some physical malady like being blind, lame, or stricken with some horrible disease. The beggar Blind Bartimaeus had a wonderful encounter with Jesus and received his sight. You may also remember the beggar Lazarus who was laid each day at the gate of the rich man. When both men died, the rich man in hell ended up begging for cool water from the beggar Lazarus who went to Heaven. There was also a sickly beggar who laid by the gate Beautiful. It was he who received a mighty healing through Peter and John.
I believe that we should take care of the poor and needy. Praise God for the many groups and organizations who sacrifice much to care for those who cannot care for themselves. However, each man has a God-given responsibility to do as much as they can to provide for themselves and their families. A friend of mine often quoted Proverbs 20:4, “The sluggard does not plow after the autumn, so he begs during the harvest and has nothing.” So true and too common.