Commentary: Do Not Give to Panhandlers


by Fred L. Buford

The word panhandler, as Mr. Noah Webster describes it, is slang for one who begs in the streets. If Mr. Webster were alive today, I believe he would have to add another definition or two, at least to cover those who beg in the church.

Men and women come off the streets working the church daily, most times interrupting some service with a heartfelt cry: my lights and gas are off.  I have six babies at home, my babies, they drink Similac.  I’m from Pennsylvania; I got stranded here last night and need just enough money to get back home.  I got robbed early this morning of all my money and food stamps and my coat.  If I could just get enough money to buy some food for my family; my baby girl needs some medication. I left the prescription at home.

There are thousands of stories given across this city; these are only a few. When I think I’ve heard every story in the book, someone tells another one. I encourage church leaders not to become enablers. Don’t take the easy way out by giving money or anything of value to everyone who comes with a hand stretched out—these things can be converted into a rock or a bottle. Break those stories down to their lowest common denominators.

I was delivered from a crack and alcohol addiction five years ago. I did whatever necessary to get my fix, but thank God I didn’t have the heart to work the church.

I’m not implying that no one comes with a legitimate need, only that the majority are crack addicts trying to get enough money for a quick fix.

God’s word commands us to work—see Gen. 3:19. In Psalms 37:25 we read, “David said I have been young and now am old, / yet have I not seen The Righteous Forsaken, / Nor his seed begging bread.” And 2 Thes. 3:10 says, “For we commanded you, even when we were with you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”

Published by the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio May 1994 Issue 6