Sunday, November 07, 2004

Fast-Sunday Iftar

Today was the first Sunday of November and as a Mormon, it was my Fast Sunday. The first Sunday of each month we fast for 24 hours and give the money we would have spent on food (plus more, if you can afford it) to charity. We are to fast and pray with a purpose. My purpose today was to ask God to soften my heart towards beggars. I've become so callous towards them, that it worries me.

Yesterday I bonked one on the head when he wouldn't go away from my car and Abez gave me a stern dressing down, which I must admit I took silently with full guilt of my actions. Although it was a prefuntory bonk and I thought the kid deserved it, Abez insists it was unChristian, unladylike and unnecessary.

Indulge me as I sort through this complex issue. I have no problem giving to charity. I give generously at Church, and to other organizations I know are meeting the needs of the poor without ripping off their donors. I give to the working poor, but I have a BIG problem giving to beggars. I still don't think it's right. It seems to me I am feeding an unwanted industry, perpertuating an ignoble perfession.

Here's why I don't give to professional beggars. First of all, begging is not allowed in Christianity or Islam. The Bible says in 2 Thessalonialns 3:10 "if any would not work, neither should he eat." Proverbs 19:15 says, "an idle soul shall suffer hunger." Mormon scipture backs this biblical principle in Doctrine and Covenants 56:17, "Wo unto you... who will not labor with your own hands." and in D&C 42:42 "the idle shall not wear the garments of the laborer." Harsh words, but this doesn't end the issue here.

In the Book of Mormon I read from Mosiah 4:16-27 "And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

"Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just.

"But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

"For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

"And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.

"And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.

"And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.

"I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.

"And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.

"And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.

"And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may awalk guiltless before God I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.

"And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order." ***

So there you have it. Two different answers for the two different perspectives. To the beggars the scriptures warn to not be lazy. To the rich man, come the warning to not be stingy and to remember that we are all beggars for God's mercy.

So now I got some soul searching and repenting to do. How I can apply this advice in my life. I think the family tradition of giving food, but not money to beggars is the best approach. The harsh reality is if you give money to a woman or child beggar, they have to give a cut to their beggar pimp. It's best to give them what they can eat right away, fruit or snack packs of biscuits. Then you are feeding the child without feeding the industry. Any ideas or suggestions in this area would be appreciated.

Time to go cook Iftar (break-fast). Today, I timed my fast so it would end at the same time my Muslim family breaks their fast (Iftar). The Queen of Cultural Confusion reigns supreme.

Sunday hugs to all those who perservered through this very untypical "Sunday School lesson" blog.


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