I wrote this post a couple of days ago and had decided not to publish it. But after a comment to another blogger where Kevin called a man evil for denying Kevin help, I decided I needed to clear a few things up on my end.
I’ve been pretty baldly critical of Kevin Barbieux over at MCB recently, and subsequently have received all sorts of Bible verse comments about Christianity. Slartibartfast wrote a post to which I typed this comment. His post was about whether or not Jesus would be an enabler. Then I realised this comment probably should be a blog post of its own. So here you go.
I’m probably the most vocal detractor (although you should see my inbox behind the scenes) in the discussion of helping someone who is gaming the system.
I’m also probably one of the more vocal Christians. I realise people don’t understand that. So, please, allow me to explain my position. And feel free to disagree with it.
The resources for those in need are finite. We have to repeatedly make a choice as to whom we help, even if the choice is “do I keep this money/food/clothing for myself?” Charity is always a choice accompanied by action. When you choose to help one person, another will not receive that help.
Ever since Kevin came onto my radar nearly 5 years ago (I’ve followed him long before I started to blog) I’ve researched him. I’ve read his blog, I’ve talked with people who once believed in him and now feel duped. I’ve worked with many charities (but I won’t talk about which ones and in which capacity because then it stops being charity and starts being Look!At!Me!) and it troubled me, initially, that there was a homeless man in need in my own hometown.
Five years have gone by since he first came to my attention. In that time I’ve gotten promotions, different jobs and had an ongoing major health crisis. I’ve seen my husband be jobless for 8 months. I’ve watched other bloggers suffer death, job loss and hardship–and that’s nothing compared to the people I know in the real world who face the same things.
Kevin has chosen homelessness. He’s chosen a “victim” state for many reasons. (Chief among them, I believe, is that if he gets a home and a job then the government will collect on the many years of unpaid child support he owes his exwife.)
If Kevin’s homelessness were only his problem then I wouldn’t mind so much. But he abandoned a wife and two children in order to embrace life on the streets. There’s a struggling woman and two kids who are seldom mentioned in the equation, and often forgotten.
When Kevin talks about being homeless it strikes a chord in people because The Homeless are a vulnerable spot for everyone. We all fear homelessness. For most of us our largest bill is our mortgage. Most of us feel about 2 pay checks from homelessness ourselves. Fear of homelessness is as instinctive as fear of sharks and snakes.
Barbieux knows that, and has used that fear to manipulate people–many of whom feel a donation or kindness to him is a sort of karmic talisman against homelessness or joblessness in their own lives. The thing is, whenever you help someone who is gaming you–whether it’s a homeless man you’ve met on the Internet, a jobless man you’ve met on the Internet who brags about bilking $45,000 out of strangers, or a close relative with a drug and alcohol problem–you are helping people with resources that are better used to help other people.
It always, with Christians, comes back around to Jesus. What would He do? Well, I do know that whenever he helped people he did say “go and sin no more.” I also know that He said “you will always have the poor with you” NOT as an instruction to help the poor but as an instruction to His disciples to focus their worship on him. The disciples were objecting that a woman was wasting money on Jesus. Jesus’ response was that he wasn’t going to be around as long as the poor so worship of Him was more important.
Jesus knew the poor would always be with us. I firmly believe that “unto the least of these” and “love thy neighbour” and “do unto others” are clear instructions for us to act charitably in all aspects of our lives. His most famous instance of anger, though, was when people manipulated the religious sensibilities and sacred obligations of the faithful in order to make money. That was why Jesus overturned the money-changers’ tables in the temple. They were profaning the sacred with their greed. The money-changers in the temple were preying upon the rules of faith which govern some people’s lives, and doing so for their own needs.
It’s a common belief that charity is ONLY financially helping those who are less fortunate. There are other aspects to charity. It is my belief that exposing charlatans who prey on the good nature of other people is a form of charity.