By John Piper –
Here’s a daily scenario. You’re sitting in your car at a stoplight. Someone approaches your window to ask for money or food. You sit facing forward, ignoring them to focus on the traffic light ahead, until you finally drive off. Every time I do this, something doesn’t feel right here, especially with regards to Luke 6:30 — we should give to everyone who asks. But then what about 2 Thessalonians 3:10, a text that calls for diligent work, or else you will not eat? I listened to APJ 80, “How to Handle Panhandlers,” from over nine years ago, but there you didn’t address this second text. And I feel pulled between them. What suggestions would you have to offer me?”
Before I give some specific suggestions for how to put together Jesus’s command to give to everyone who begs from you (Luke 6:30), and Paul’s command that those who are unwilling to work should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10), let me lay a little bit of foundation that I think Jesus wants us to hear. And I’m really preaching to myself here, mainly as I’ve, over the years, analyzed my heart in dealing with folks who stand on the corner. I walk by them almost every day. So, she’s not alone in South Africa. Here in the middle of Minneapolis, I deal with this on foot, not just in the car, which it makes it even more poignant, I think.
I think that Jesus’s radical, sometimes unqualified, commands are intended especially — not only, but especially — to sever the nerve of our deep, deep, deep selfishness as human beings. He meant to expose the most fundamental problem with human nature — John Piper’s human nature — namely, our sinful condition that consists essentially in a deep bondage to self-exaltation, self-preservation, worldly self-gratification, all of which more or less conceals a self-asserting resistance to God’s right to tell us what’s good for us and to be for us what’s good for us.
I think Jesus cares more about exposing and healing this disease of our evil self-centeredness than he does about working out all the details of how our healing and liberation from self will express itself in ways that help other people — like the way we deal with panhandlers, or the way we deal with idle busybodies in church who won’t work.