The Thinking 

Charity and Reason

November 17, 2010



The ordeal of Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapping and rape began when her mother gave a panhandler five dollars. That act of Christian charity was then followed by another when Mrs. Smart offered panhandler Brian Mitchell to come work on her property raking leaves and fixing a skylight. The horror that resulted is well known. So if it may be true that angels will come in disguise to test us, as your commenter Mike suggested, it is also true that devils will do the same. If everyone followed a policy of giving to every panhandler the streets of our cities would quickly fill with a horde of them. The sure result would be social chaos and danger as the flock of sheep was fleeced by legions of flim-flam men, psychopaths, drug addicts, petty criminals, and perhaps even the occasional genuine worthy beggar.

Panhandling is illegal in most places (or used to be) and for good reason. It can all too easily become a means of legal intimidation and theft that feeds vice, and worse. I don’t see how the admonishment to “give to everyone who begs of you”, cannot have overwhelmingly negative consequences. Too often money given to beggars goes to drink and drugs while the enormous charitable giving to the Third World too often creates recipients dependent on aid, undermines local farmers and markets with free food, and free money encourages every kind of political graft and corruption.

Charity is a good and necessary thing, but if not done carefully and responsibly will make a disorganized wreck of society. It surely gives me pause to contradict Jesus. He did say, “”give to everyone who begs of you”. But it sounds like the kind of liberal utopian thinking that results in real world social disaster. I don’t know how to reconcile Jesus’ teachings with my understanding and experience of how the world works, (and I suspect many conservatives feel the same), but perhaps someday I’ll understand.

Laura writes:

“Charity is a good and necessary thing.” I agree, it is wrong to consider its effects purely on the giver, how it will fulfill his moral obligations, and not on the receiver. That is vanity. C.S. Lewis said the money he gave to a beggar would have gone for a drink for himself anyway. But this is a foolish comparison. Lewis wasn’t an alcoholic. A drink for him was an entirely different thing than a drink for the man who begged from him.

Christ said, “Ye have the poor always with you.” (Mat 26:11)

What did this mean? I think it meant that we must find a proper way to live with the poor. We must establish a relationship with them and not exaggerate what we can do. Like all relationships, it would be foolish to consider it one-sided or based on sentiment only. The poor are human too, required to express charity and consideration in the small ways they can. In the Christian view, material poverty is never the central fact about a human being. The point is, we should balance the desire to do good with the desire to do no harm. The commandment to  love others as we love ourselves is very reasonable and basic. We do not indulge all of our own desires or presume everything we ourselves do is good if we don’t have much money.

Who would decline to help someone who appeared to be sick and starving on the street? I think  none of us would. But an able-bodied man who approaches you and asks for money? Or a woman who approaches in a shiny minivan and says she has been abused by her husband? Beggars do include liars and con-artists.

—– Comments ——

Lawrence Auster writes:

Good for Dean in simply saying that he cannot accept the apparent meaning of Jesus’ saying in this matter, even though he can’t fully justify his position at this moment. That shows a sane mind refusing to accept manifest insanity, no matter how authoritative its apparent source.

To begin with, let’s understand that only the Revised Standard Version renders Luke 6:30 as “Give to every one who begs from you.” The King James, the NIV, and Richmond Lattimore all render the word as “ask,” not “beg.” I would also point out that the Revised Standard is wildly unreliable, frequently replacing the original Hebrew or Greek text with something entirely different, usually in a way that introduces a sticky sentimentality that is not in the original.

Here is my favorite example. In Psalm 17, verse 10, The King James says, “They are enclosed in their own fat.” That is very close to a literal reading of the Hebrew, which is, “They are locked up in their fat.” The RSV renders the same line as, “They close their hearts to pity.” The RSV thus wholesale removes the original language and replaces the amazingly insightful psychological image of man closed off from reality by his self-love, with vapid sentimentality.

Still, even if the correct translation is “ask,” rather than “beg,” that doesn’t get rid of the large problem presented to us by Jesus’ saying.

Jesus was speaking to his disciples, in the rural agricultural society of 1st century Galilee where people largely knew each other, not in a modern megalopolis filled with strangers, criminals, drug addicts, beggars, and a vast welfare population. To apply Jesus’ saying literally to our actual situation and to declare that we must literally give to every beggar who begs of us, is the sort of mindless fundamentalist liberal Christianity which has made not a few people see Christianity as a threat to civilization and even to life on earth. Indeed, if I were persuaded that Mike’s version of Christianity is the real Christianity, I would become as big an enemy of Christianity as Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris or Friedrich Nietzsche. Thankfully, Mike’s liberal fundamentalist understanding of Christianity is wrong.

Jesus’ teachings, especially his most difficult teachings, as in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, and in the similar Sermon in the Field in Luke that we are discussing here, must be understood intelligently, in context. For example, take the line preceding the line we’re talking about: “To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.” Liberal fundamentalist Christians such as Mike would say that this means that if anyone physically attacks us, we must invite him to continue attacking us. If a band of murderers invades our house and threatens to kill us and our family, we should say, “Sure, go ahead.”

Since such an insane meaning CANNOT be what Jesus meant, we must apply our intelligence and ask what he DID mean. Which means we must try to get at the inner meaning, the inner attitude that he was trying to convey to his followers in this and other sayings, rather than, like Mike, literally and mechanically applying the apparent but false meaning of the phrase to every situation.

Secondly, we must realize that this is something that would be practiced in the context of personal relationships, not in the context of, say, facing dangerous criminals or professional beggars in a big city with a billion dollar program for homeless people.

Stephen writes:

One of the best bits of advice I have heard on the topic is that charity ceases to be charity when doing so increases the demand for charity.

N.W. writes:

Most of the beggars I’ve come across stateside are either crusties or New Age travelers. I met quite a few of these train-hopping kids while busking on Cary Street in Richmond. A good deal of these kids come from white middle-class suburban families. A lot of them end up on the road out of a sort of rebellion against consumerist culture. About half of the kids I’ve met in Richmond have been buskers playing old-timey music. A lot of them are big into dumpster diving and most of the ones who don’t play music are just straight-up panhandlers.

When I was younger, while still in high school, I used to get my mom riled by telling her I saw more hope in a bunch of punks than I ever did in any church youth groups, cause at least the punks knew something was wrong with society. If not for the excellent liberal arts education I received in college I imagine that there’s a good chance I’d have fallen into such a lifestyle myself. Growing up I was under the impression that the extent of American Culture was McDonald’s, pop music, and television. It was hardly surprising to me that young people would dress up in ripped jeans and torn T-shirts and flail about to screeching guitars and pounding drums; if McDonald’s, Coca Cola and MTV is the only culture bequeathed you by your forebear, well then screw it. And of course the rest of the world was far more intruiging and interesting; at least they had a real culture with real art and real music. All we had in America was a bunch of fakes cashing in. It was only in my freshman year of college that I began to rediscover the vibrant American culture that consumerism and liberalism had obfuscated.

In the first semester of my freshman year I read the southern agrarians, mainly Donald Davidson and Allen Tate, as well as all of the essays from I‘ll Take my Stand. Their defence of traditional Southern culture as well as their pointed criticism of Modernism was something I had never encountered before. Around the same time I was also reading quite a bit about Eliot’s The Waste Land for a lit. crit. class. Needless to say, the two views provided a stark counterpoint to each other. At the same time I started listening to a lot of country, bluegrass, Irish-trad, and old-timey music. Over the next four years as I meandered through the great works of Western Civilization I discovered the thread which connected me to all the generations who came before. It was through this discovery that I began to realize the significance of my own life within a living tradition.

A lot of the kids I’ve met out on the street aren’t too much different than myself back when I was seventeen. They realize that there is something wrong with how our society is ordered but they don’t know what. A lot of them buy into some kind of “ism” and begin proselytizing like its the end of the world. Others just say screw it and drop out of society.

Ironically, a lot of these homeless traveler kids are discovering something of an older America. A good deal of the kids I’ve met are more into traditional old timey music than punk or hard core. One reason, I suppose, is that its easier to jump a train with a mandolin than an electric guitar. Another is the fact that old timey music is one of the most uncommercial genres you’re going to find. When one is running away from a world of fakes authenticity is paramount and most of the time the commercially unviable is authentic. Unfortunately, all they see is the fruit of a healthier society without recognizing the tree from which it sprung.

James P. writes:

I agree that one should not encourage beggars by rewarding them. “Too fulsome a generosity corrupts the recipient and stultifies his resource.” — Jack Vance

It is completely untenable to assert that we are commanded to give to creatures such as those described by Heather MacDonald in a recent City Journal article:

The defining characteristic of all these “travelers” seems to be an acute sense of entitlement. “If you can afford this shit on Haight Street, then goddamn, you can probably afford to kick down $20 [to a panhandler] and it won’t fucking hurt your wallet,” a smooth-faced blond boy from Spartanburg, South Carolina, defiantly tells the camera in The Haight Street Kids, a documentary by Stanford University’s art department. I ask the group on the blanket: Why should people give you money? “They got a dollar and I don’t,” Cory replies. Why don’t you work? “We do work,” retorts Eeyore. “I carry around this heavy backpack. We wake up at 7 AM and work all day. It’s hard work.” She’s referring to begging and drinking. She adds judiciously: “Okay, my liver hates me, but I like the idea of street performance. We’re trying to get a dollar for beer.” More specifically, they’re aiming for two Millers and a Colt 45 at the moment, explains Zombie. Aren’t you embarrassed to be begging? “I’m not begging, I’m just asking for money,” Cory says, seemingly convinced of the difference. How much do you make? “In San Francisco, you don’t get much—maybe $30 to $40 a day,” says Eeyore. “When you’re traveling, you can make about $100 on freeway off-ramps.”

Needless to say, the sit-lie law says nothing about economic status; what it “profiles” is not wealth but behavior. The Haight Street vagrants colonize the sidewalk all day not because they are poor but because doing so is the essence of their “traveling” lifestyle. And a resident or store owner afflicted by punks threatening passersby in front of his home or business is indifferent to how much money is in their pockets; he’s even indifferent to the constant panhandling. He only wants a passageway open and welcoming to all. “I don’t care if they ask for change,” says Arthur Evans, a self-described former hippie from Greenwich Village who has lived in the neighborhood for 35 years. “It’s okay if they loiter and make a bit of noise. But I don’t feel safe walking down the Haight at night any more.”

I have yet to see an obviously crippled or starving person on an American street, and therefore I have not seen “one who is perishing” or in “bitter distress.” I have seen people who were drug-addled or insane, but they seemed otherwise healthy on casual inspection.

Lydia Sherman writes:

As lofty as it sounds to help a beggar, we still teach our children and our families not to beg. Men could not hold their heads up if they begged instead of working, and children are taught it is bad manners to beg ,even in the home, yet they see these grown people on the street corners begging. A friend of mine followed one of these “beggars” after contributing money, and found that he was buying liquor and cigarettes. After that, she never gave money to beggars. Most people earn money the hard way, so why should they give to people who will not work?

The Bible references to helping people financially occurred first of all within the churches. Brethren were supposed to help other brethren in distress. The apostle Paul collected money from the churches so that he could distribute it to other Christians in distress. Many people want that kind of help, without being one of us. They think churches are there to give other people something, but in reality, the church is to first help their own brethren. We as individuals may help whom we choose, but always with a higher motive: to win the soul to Christ and help them learn to live the Christian way, not pilfering, but working, as the Bible teaches, with their own hands, that they may not have to beg, as alluded to in Ist Thessalonians 4:11.

With the pension and welfare and retirement system in America, there is no reason for the amount of begging that goes on, and I know of people who refuse the help that is offered. Many will not go to the missions and the places of charity, because of the rules that must be followed in those institutions, such as no drinking, no co-ed living, and curfews.

Alyson writes:

I can understand Dean’s sentiments. I agree that it can be a bad thing to give money to someone panhandling. In college (undergrad), I did a speech on homelessness which required a good bit of research. As of 2001, what I discovered then was that the majority of panhandlers (well that is not true, the majority of the homeless, some panhandlers are posing but have means) are homeless due to mental health problems or substance abuse issues. Therefore giving money does very little good and can easily cause harm. That is one reason why I advocate for a structured means of helping them, such as agencies or charities which include rehab or a work training component of some kind. Salvation Army does this well, as do some other Christian agencies, however there are also Governmental agencies which help with this. I realize this does not solve the problem for those who do not want help, but that is another issue (morally) entirely. Research (at least as of 2001) seems to show the best way to help the poor is to not only provide food and shelter but simultaneously address the issue which caused the problem: mental health problems and substance abuse. This is also why I do think programs like Medicaid are necessary.

Laura writes:

At VFR, a commenter named Jonah makes this important statement regarding Lawrence Auster’s comments above:

I am not sure as I would go so far as to say I take issue with your contextualization of Jesus’ statement regarding begging, but I would caution that there is a point where the strangeness and sheer counter-intuitive other-worldliness of Jesus’ views, which was seemingly noticed by all at the time, is undercut by making too many attempts to line him up with the practical life-choices of a conservative, urban, resentful-of-the-squalor-of-the-left American.

While I do agree that, for example, the verses regarding the welcoming of strangers is in no way a comment on national borders policy, I do think we should recall that whoever we are, and however much try to align ourselves with the Christian way of life, the Christ remains a startling and singular figure, and there may well be directives that do not always align with what we’d ordinarily consider a convenient, prudent life-choice.

This is meant to serve not as a counter-argument, really, but more as a caution, a weight which must always remain on the same side of scale, the side of strangeness.

Mercedes writes:

This is a great discussion and I appreciate all of the comments on both sides.

Perhaps I am reading my King James Version of the Bible too literally – although I don’t consider myself either a fundamentalist or liberal Christian – but I tend to agree with Mike’s comments.

Whenever someone asks me specifically for money, I give them money, because of Jesus’ command to “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” (Matthew 5:42) I also remember that Jesus said “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” and “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.” (Matthew 25:40 and 25:45)

I am well aware that sometimes people will use the money to buy alcohol or drugs, but I agree with Mike that it is not our place to decide who is worthy of mercy. I have been both an alcoholic and a drug addict in my younger years, but by the grace and mercy of God I became free of both addictions and did not end up on the street. Whenever I see someone who looks like they might be in the grip of either or both of these debilitating sins, I can’t help but think “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

There are those who seem to beg as a way of life, but there have been many occasions when someone is just standing off to the side with a sign that says “Please help” or something like that. I have bought food for such people and could tell that they truly appreciated it, and then never saw them begging again. Even the serial beggars that I have become acquainted with – because I have asked their names – eventually leave off. I remember one man named Joseph that I would encounter a couple of times a week. He said he lived under an overpass, and he begged from a couple of locations near my house for a few months. It seemed to mean a lot to him that someone would care to know his name and to ask him how he was doing. More recently, I became acquainted with a woman named Christine who frequented the same two places that Joseph did. When I first met her, I thought she was a man, because her face was so weather beaten. She said she was homeless, and I know that she spent some nights in a local park because I saw her there. Christine definitely had a drinking problem, because occasionally I would see her sleeping on the bench in front of my local grocery store with empty beer cans scattered around her. But she was always grateful for the food that I gave her, and like Joseph, it seemed to mean a lot to her that someone would care to know her name. Eventually, the local grocery store and liquor store stopped selling alcohol to her, and her appearance improved a bit. The last time I saw her, she looked much better, and I haven’t seen her begging for quite a while.

Perhaps I am being taken advantage of by some of the people to whom I give, but I would rather err in that direction than miss the opportunity to help someone who truly needed my help. I feel fortunate to have a steady job, a house to sleep in at night, and plenty of food to eat. I would just feel too selfish if I did not share some of my worldly blessings with those who are clearly less fortunate. And if some to whom I give think that they have played me for a sucker, so be it. I will still count my blessings and not feel poorer for it.

Laura writes:

When we say no again and again, we progressively harden ourselves. The more I think of it, the more I am in favor of an intuitive approach. Size up the beggar quickly and see who he is.

Postmodern Antiquarian writes:

Beggars put me in a bad position. I feel hardened if I say no. But I can’t afford to say yes.

Hurricane Betsy writes:

If you can’t afford to give money to the beggar, then tell him so. You might say that you have only so much and you need it for yourself and your family. I have done this maybe 1/2 a dozen times and not once have I ever had hostility in return. Every time, they said it was okay. However, it was always men. Men who looked like they had a rough life; you can tell from their faces.

If I tried that with a female beggar, I don’t know what the response would be. Women living on the street tend to be crazier and more unstable than any man and they don’t want to hear your “excuses” for not helping them. Better to give them a buck and hurry along!

Too, I suspect that most of the fakes are women, that they know they can get away with manipulating people. Once, I was approached by a woman with a real 4-star story about a family emergency, her car broke down, she had to get to the hospital to see her father, how she’d return the money! (I didn’t give. This happened right in a fast food restaurant, where I felt safe.) About a week later in the newspaper I read about this woman and some people who had fallen for her lies and given lots of money. She apparently was an old pro and the police were looking for her. This is similar to the story Jesse Powell told in the recent thread here, except that was a more elaborate scam with children involved.

Kristor writes:

There are beggars and there are beggars. Some could use a good tongue lashing, I bet; the outright scam artists, most of whom I can see through instantly. But many are somehow wounded. Prayer is perhaps the most accurate way we may help them.

Best thing about prayer is it salves both intercessee and intercessor.

Bruce writes:

“If you look at a textbook of Orthodox theology, you will find that the truth cannot be found by the unaided powers of man. You can read the scriptures or any holy book and not even understand what they say. (…)

“Here we see how what is called ‘revelation’ comes about: the heart is moved and changed by the presence of God (…)

“The opposite of a loving heart that receives revelation from God is cold calculation…”

From God’s Revelation to the Human Heart by Fr. Seraphim Rose.

Comment: Studying the words of the Bible with cold calculation is never sufficient for understanding revelation.

Since most of us nowadays are grotesquely spiritually stunted by comparison with the past, and utterly lack the loving hearts required for understanding, we need to acknowledge our deficiencies and look for wisdom to the great Saints and Holy Fathers of more devout eras and places; who may serve as a bridge to revelation.

Charles T. writes:

There are some readers who are saying that we must not turn away anyone who makes a request of us. There are some who say we must take literally every command of Jesus. All right. Let us take a look at another passage:

Mat 5: 27-30:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

There are a whole lot of Christians who still have their eyes and hands. Should we follow this to the letter? Well, what did Jesus actually mean? We must remember that Jesus lived in the middle east. People from the middle east use hyperbole as a regular means of communication. This is hyperbole. It is meant to emphasize the seriousness of our sin. Should we cut our hand off? No, of course not. Should we take our sin seriously as something to be avoided, as something damaging to us body and soul? Yes, of course. We must learn to distinguish when he is talking in hyperbole or using some other literary method to teach us something. Sometimes it is hyperbole, or a parable, etc.

Another thing to remember is to compare everything he said with how he lived. Jesus told us to turn the other cheek. Yet, when Jesus cleansed the temple he turned other people’s butt-cheeks with his whip and overturned their table with the money jars on them. When Jesus interacted with people on a daily basis, he did not do this. However, there were certain situations when Jesus became angry and hit people. The temple incident was this type of incident. The context of his interaction with others is incredibly important.

Study everything he taught in the context of how he lived and behaved. This will give us the knowledge and the example we need to apply his teaching to our daily situations.

Mercedes writes:

With all due respect to Kristor, who is undeniably wise in the wisdom of men, I must beg to differ regarding his recommendation to pray for beggars. In the book of James, we read:

If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

James 2:15-18

 In anticipation of the expected comment that I am advocating a works righteousness, I should say that I am a mainline Protestant/traditional Lutheran and have myself argued that this passage from James is a recommendation of works righteousness. But I have come to see – through revelation, as Bruce might say – that is not what this passage is advocating. I now believe that it is simply a restatement of Matthew 7:16 – Ye shall know them by their fruits.

I agree with Bruce’s comment that studying the words of the Bible with cold calculation is never sufficient for understanding revelation. Well said!

Laura writes:

Kristor was not arguing that one should never give to the poor and that prayer is sufficient. We cannot give to all of the poor. We can pray for those among the poor whom we may consider less worthy of our aid than others.

Mercedes writes:

The only point on which I begged to differ with Kristor was his recommendation that prayer was the best thing we could do for beggars. I did not differ with his recommendation that we pray for beggars (as you condensed my remarks). Also, I did not say that Kristor was arguing that we should never give to beggars.

I’m sorry if I seem overly sensitive, but I felt some regret that my remarks were slightly mischaracterized, however innocently.

Of course I agree with Kristor that we should pray for beggars – I was only suggesting that actually giving them something would be more helpful in meeting their immediate needs.

Laura writes:

Yes, I did not mean to put words in your mouth. I was stating what I saw as Kristor’s point.

Y. writes:

I don’t think the Lord was using hyperbole when He said, “Give to those who ask…” Note He didn’t say, “Give exactly what the person asked for.”

We can give money, or food, guidance to help, kindness (Hurricane Betsy was kind to the two men), prayer, etc. Giving prayer with, or for, someone from a sincere heart is meaningful. I think the verses in James were referring to those being hypocritical, pretending to care.

Peter said to the lame man begging for alms, “Silver and gold have I none, but that which I have I give you.”

“that which I have” Giving takes into account the giver’s ability and also discernment about what the person really needs.

It is vital to give, and not just for the sakes of those in need. Giving keeps compassion flowing through the giver’s heart and keeps the heart from hardening.

At the Judgment, the sheep are distinguished from the goats by giving.

 Laura writes:

It is vital to give, and not just for the sakes of those in need. Giving keeps compassion flowing through the giver’s heart and keeps the heart from hardening.

That is the crux of the matter. It is vital to give in some way, but since every act of giving involves reason and judgment the heart is not all that is involved.

The importance of giving applies to the poor and the rich. The poor are not exempt from the necessity to give and they can suffer from this hardening too.

Y. writes:

Giving involves wisdom and discernment, especially in a potentially dangerous situation. When the Pharisees asked the Lord leading questions, He gave questions in reply. He did not give them answers they could use to entrap Him.

Clark Coleman writes:

This has been a great discussion, by which I mean that the reader can come to new understandings. Here is one that has come to me while reading it: We should each be aware of the location of a Christian charity that will help the homeless. If a beggar approaches us, we can refer them to that charity. If they are not interested (because the charity has rules, or requires them to work, or will not in any way help them get cigarettes and beer), then they have made their own decision. It is not I who have rejected them. Silver and gold I did not have, but a good word of advice and referral I did, and they rejected it. This is not at all the same as simply saying “No money today.” You should offer the referral in the sincere hope that they will accept it.

Those who quote Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount and try to apply them literally need to explain how they systematize all the teachings of the Bible on the subject, so that Christ’s words do not contradict other passages. 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 comes to mind, including the command “If any would not work, let him not eat.” The point (in case sentimental liberalism has so clouded our minds that we cannot see it) is that people will not go without food for long before they consent to work again. But if given handouts, they will continue not to work.

Lawrence Auster writes:

Must reading for those interested in Jesus’ teachings on charity is Wikipedia’s informative and fascinating article on the 12 schools of interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount. Serious Christian thinkers have been grappling with this difficult text for the last two thousand years, and specifically with the question of whether Jesus’ sayings are meant to be taken literally and whether they are meant to apply to all persons in all situations. Yes, there is a school of literalist interpretation of the Sermon, called the Absolutist school, represented by such as Tolstoy, who was even not a Christian but invented his own, whacky version of Christianity. Meanwhile, the leading Catholic thinkers, Augustine and Aquinas, and the founding Protestant thinker, Luther, have all placed clear limits around the both scope of Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon and the types of persons to whom they are meant to apply.

Yet contemporary people like your commenter Mike come along and, apparently with no knowledge of the fact that the leading Christian authorities have been denying a literalist reading of the Sermon on the Mount throughout the history of Western civiization, tell us that a literalist reading is required and that a Christian is therefore obligated to give money to literally every beggar he encounters.

Laura writes:

It’s important to note, however, that Mike was responding to Mr. Auster’s statement that it is wrong to give to beggars, period.

Mr. Auster responds:

That is true. But Mike went beyond responding to my point and made his own, opposite point, asserting the literal universalism of Jesus’ counsel in Luke 6:30 to give to everyone who begs of you.

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