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Give beer to beggars!

One of the foremost reasons I ever hear for why Christians don’t give to beggars is the claim that said beggars will undoubtedly use the money for buying alcohol. Thus any act of monetary giving is not only unnecessary (despite Matt 5:42 which seems pretty friggin clear), but possibly morally wrong. Well, like I always wonder, what does the Good Book say about this line of thinking?

Give strong drink to one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress;  let them drink and forget their poverty, and remember their misery no more. (Prov 31:6-7)

Now obviously proverbs are proverbs. But let me just say a couple things. First, most Christians I know who don’t like giving to beggars on the basis of the logic mentioned above tend to love the book of Proverbs. All the stuff about being wise, taking care of yourself, disciplining children with rods, etc. So if that stuff is wise guidance, clearly we can’t just throw this out, right? (Note also that this passage comes right before the eternal evangelical favorite passage about “the virtuous woman” which is always considered the unadulterated voice of God.)

Second, regardless of the particulars of how we approach wisdom literature, doesn’t it matter that the only verse in the Bible that directly speaks to this issue tells us that helping the distressed forget their troubles over some booze is a good thing? I mean, it seems like that would tilt the scales a little, right? Since that’s the only direct reference in Scripture that we have and all . . .

So, be biblical! Give to beggars and don’t try to weasel out of it by blowing smoke about how you don’t want them buying alcohol with it. And if you want to be even more biblical, you could just go ahead and buy them the beer yourself.

14 Comments

  1. Nathan wrote:

    Of course God is being sarcastic. There’s no other way to explain this verse without challenging my assumptions, therefore I say it’s sarcasm.

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Permalink
  2. roger flyer wrote:

    I say. Beer for the beggar, steak for the son.

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Permalink
  3. Liesl wrote:

    I think roger is wise. I think it’s important to give to beggars because it makes me uncomfortable. Giving to a charity is good too, but it doesn’t make me uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable is good. If my discomfort can bring comfort to another, even better.

    Perhaps the most damaging part of the “he’ll buy alcohol” reasoning is the underlying suggestion that that’s why he’s there in the first place. And it’s comforting for me to think that avoiding such dirty habits has separated my fate from that guy’s.

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Permalink
  4. Bobby Grow wrote:

    of course prov says other things about alchol and drunkardness as well

    I was under the impression that alcohol in this era was used medicinally for lack of other more controlled things. medicine to quench the pain of the dying (like Jesus on the cross, but He refused).

    But yeah, the logic of not giving beggars money because their afraid they’ll drink is stupid.

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 7:10 pm | Permalink
  5. Colin wrote:

    I actually did this once.

    There was a dude in my university town hanging around outside a convenience store with a sign indication hunger, poorness, veteran status, god bless, etc. I figured, “What the hell?” and asked him what he was trying to buy to eat.

    He said, “You know what, all I want is a beer.” And I thought, “Same here, I’m going to go home and drink one after I buy one for this guy.”

    As per his request, I purchased a tallboy of Mickey’s and added two healthy bags of trail mix for the road. As I delivered them to him, I learned he was a couch surfer, his name was Richard but everyone calls him “Catman” and noticed that he had about four teeth, including his canines.

    I’m guessing he liked the beer but had trouble with the trail mix.

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 11:06 pm | Permalink
  6. david wrote:

    Good post! I’d never noticed that proverb before. I remember reading an anecdote once about how CS Lewis was walking through town one day with a friend and saw a beggar, so he gave him some money. When the friend he was with suggested that this might not have been such a good idea, because the man will probably only spend it on beer, Lewis replied, ‘So would I.’

    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 1:04 am | Permalink
  7. This is awesome.

    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 11:58 am | Permalink
  8. Marvin wrote:

    I prefer to self-medicate with wine rather than taking anti-depressants. Alas, wine is not a good substitute for anti-psychotics, the latter being what a lot of homeless people need, but can’t get, the former being more readily available. Which is why many are homeless to begin with.

    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink
  9. chris wrote:

    I’ve always been bothered by these arguments against random acts of kindness as well. Doing nothing has never sounded so responsible! I’ve always countered this argument with, “So is it suddenly your business what this stranger does with your money? You don’t even know their name! Why not stop and talk to them, offer to walk somewhere and buy them food. Make a friend.”

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 10:31 am | Permalink
  10. But if you hire someone, and they work for you, that’s capitalism at work and said gentleman/lady can then spend the money on booze at will.

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 8:48 am | Permalink
  11. Michael Harris wrote:

    How far do we take this? In my neighborhood in inner-city Chicago (where I am involved in the Christian community Jesus People USA, which runs a large shelter for women and children) I have neighbors who live directly across the street from me who are schizophrenic and frequently beg money to buy crack from one of the numerous local crack dealers. Do I then give them money so that they can “forget their troubles?”
    I think your answers might change a bit if you had more than a passing relationship with the people on the streets.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 7:52 am | Permalink
  12. The point of the post seems to be more about poking fun of the hypocrisy of certain biblical hermeneutics then a prescription for dealing with poverty and substance abuse.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 9:09 am | Permalink
  13. Brad A. wrote:

    And I’m willing to bet that there is a wide variance of opinion among those with “more than a passing relationship with the people on the streets.”

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 9:33 am | Permalink
  14. Halden wrote:

    Why do people only seem to take my posts labeled “humor” with excessive seriousness?

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 9:35 am | Permalink

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