Remember in the Bible in Acts 3 when Peter and John are going into the temple and there’s a lame man at the gate who asks them for alms? Remember Peter’s response? [I’ve always loved this passage and the other day got a glimpse into a deeper meaning (at least for me).] Peter’s response is “Silver and gold have I non; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.”
The lame man is asking that all who walk into the temple see him as a lame man at the gate, feel compassion for him, and give him money. Peter said he didn’t have money to give him. But it was more than that. Giving money would have been the result of seeing a cripple in need. Peter refused to see him as a lame man in the first place. Essentially, Peter said, “There’s nothing in me that honors you being a cripple. All that’s in me – all I have to give you – is the view of you as whole and free” – a view of him uplifted by the Christ, Truth – a view of God’s perfect man – the Christly view of perfection which would expect the man to be conscious of his true being and not think of himself as cripple. And in that state of consciousness, of course he would get up. (If you had no thought that you were cripple, you wouldn’t stay on the ground.) In offering the man his hand, Peter gave the man an opportunity to stand for who he really was and get up – free from the imposition of the crippling thought of himself as limited and needy.
So… when I see someone asking for a handout – asking me to see them as damaged – I try to refuse to see someone who needs a handout and remember to give them a hand up – lift them up in my own thought to see their true nature – whole and healthy, ready to walk and leap, and praise God for the way God made them – perfect. When we see the perfect man, we give others the freedom to see themselves that way.
And on those days when I don’t remember and I get sucked in by the picture, the most loving response is to give what I can.