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Sermon Illustrations on homelessness

Background

Suspicion Towards the Poor

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Therefore, don’t give a man a fish.” This is the cultural mantra of much of the middle and upper class. While Jesus says directly to give to those who ask (Matthew 5:42), we are encouraged to interview, be suspicious of and ultimately not give to beggars.

Why? It seems we think that people are poor because they ought to be. Or is it like a disease that can be caught if you associate too closely? We are taught that those who are poor don’t want to work, are manipulative, don’t care about themselves or others, are criminally dangerous, or are unmotivated to do better. Yet Jesus doesn’t mention any of these conditions as reasons not to give to someone in need.

Truth be told, I know a fair number of people who make plenty of money whom we should be suspicious, who should be investigated, who are pretty darn lazy and manipulative, and who care little about others. So why is there all the noise about beggars being this way? We are taught that there is abundant opportunity for all who are willing to work hard. Thus people with wealth cannot believe that we should relate with or help anyone who is poor. The poor should be able to help themselves.

Taken from Practical Justice: Living Off-Center in a Self-Centered World by Kevin Blue Copyright (c) 2006 by Kevin Blue. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Stories

Laundry Love

Greg and some of his friends from church were zealous to pursue the common good of their community, Ventura, California. Instead of coming up with their own ideas of how to do this, they started by listening to their neighbors. One day they were talking to a neighbor who happened to be homeless and asked him, “What would it look like for us to come alongside your life?” The man’s response was simple and honest, “If I had clean clothes, I think people would treat me as a human being.”

That comment sparked the peacemaker instinct inside Greg and his friends. We can help our neighbor clean his clothes, they thought. They knew that even clean clothes are a part of shalom. So they got some detergent and some quarters and helped their neighbor clean his clothes.

Word got out, and they began helping other people clean their clothes too. Their initial efforts at simple peacemaking sparked the peacemaker instincts inside other people and thus Laundry Love was born. Today the Laundry Love movement has spread to hundreds of locations across the country.

What’s it all about? “Laundry Love washes the clothes and bedding of low/no income families and person(s) across the US. We brighten the lives of thousands of people through love, dignity, and detergent by partnering with diverse groups and laundromats nationwide.” Greg and his friends (and now hundreds of people across the United States) are simply doing what Jeremiah and Peter remind us we are created and called to do: to pursue the common good of the place and people around us. They are making peace in their neighborhood.

Taken from The Hopeful Neighborhood: What Happens When Christians Pursue the Common Good by Don Everts Copyright (c) 2020 by Don Everts. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

A Phone Call Away

I interviewed Jamie Dimon, current CEO of JPMorgan Chase (the largest bank in the United States) and previous cofounder of the financial services conglomerate Citigroup (the third largest). While at Citigroup, he experienced a sudden, involuntary change. At the time, he was serving as president, the company was growing, and by all accounts, his employees and board were pleased with his work.

Yet one Sunday afternoon, a senior executive reached out for a quick chat—and ended up firing Dimon. He was forced out over a weekend. That evening, as he told his family what had happened, his youngest daughter asked if they would have to move out of their house and live in the streets. Jamie Dimon was certainly not penniless, so his daughter was not going to sleep in the streets. But his story illustrates an important point. It does not matter how successful, wealthy, or good you are at your job: a major life change is never more than a phone call away.

Taken from Hinge Moments by D. Michael Lindsay. Copyright (c) 2021 by D. Michael Lindsay. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press. www.ivpress.com

The Well-Intentioned Couple and the Vagabond

When I was in college I sometimes visited Bel Air Presbyterian Church, as did many of my friends. At that time Bel Air was known for being a place celebrities liked to visit. (This was not my favorite reason for attending, but I digress). One Sunday, a friend of mine’s sister was there and got to observe the following interaction. So there was a man sitting by himself in a pew, in torn clothing, looking fairly disheveled. After the service had ended, a well-to-do couple (this was the home of the Fresh Prince, after all) in the pew next to him began a conversation with the vagabond. They informed the man that there was a shelter not far from the church that he could easily get to via the bus. After patiently listening, the man simply responded:

“I’m Bob Dylan.”

Then walked away.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Analogies

A Phone Call Away

I interviewed Jamie Dimon, current CEO of JPMorgan Chase (the largest bank in the United States) and previous cofounder of the financial services conglomerate Citigroup (the third largest). While at Citigroup, he experienced a sudden, involuntary change. At the time, he was serving as president, the company was growing, and by all accounts, his employees and board were pleased with his work.

Yet one Sunday afternoon, a senior executive reached out for a quick chat—and ended up firing Dimon. He was forced out over a weekend. That evening, as he told his family what had happened, his youngest daughter asked if they would have to move out of their house and live in the streets. Jamie Dimon was certainly not penniless, so his daughter was not going to sleep in the streets. But his story illustrates an important point. It does not matter how successful, wealthy, or good you are at your job: a major life change is never more than a phone call away.

Taken from Hinge Moments by D. Michael Lindsay. Copyright (c) 2021 by D. Michael Lindsay. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press. www.ivpress.com

Humor

The Well-Intentioned Couple and the Vagabond

When I was in college I sometimes visited Bel Air Presbyterian Church, as did many of my friends. At that time Bel Air was known for being a place celebrities liked to visit. (This was not my favorite reason for attending, but I digress). One Sunday, a friend of mine’s sister was there and got to observe the following interaction. So there was a man sitting by himself in a pew, in torn clothing, looking fairly disheveled. After the service had ended, a well-to-do couple (this was the home of the Fresh Prince, after all) in the pew next to him began a conversation with the vagabond. They informed the man that there was a shelter not far from the church that he could easily get to via the bus. After patiently listening, the man simply responded:

“I’m Bob Dylan.”

Then walked away.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

More Resources

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