Consider The Lillies

Tennessee Voices
We had stopped serving plates of food to the homeless seated at our tables, many were leaving, and we began taking down our tables, after three hours on the sun-baked asphalt parking lot. We were ready to pack up and leave for air-conditioned cars and homes.

I was closing up on stage, reminding our homeless guests to pick up their sack lunches and iced bottled water on their way out the gate.

A wild-eyed homeless man staggered to the stage, yelling loudly, “Help me, I need food.” He said he was going to pass out and had not eaten for days. “Help me, help me, I have to have something to eat and drink,” he exclaimed, swaying as if he could not make another step without food. I could see he was “overly medicated” and that he was a mess, physically and mentally.

I nodded at a member of our group and she told him to “sit down right there at the table, and we will bring you a plate.” When he stared at her blankly, she again pointed to the table and told him to sit down. He focused on her and barked not to tell him what to do but immediately looked up at me and said, “I’m sorry.” He sat compliantly.

We brought him a nice hot plate of food. He stared at it, looked around the table and said incredulously, “Ain’t you got no salt and pepper? I don’t think I can eat this without salt and pepper!” But he did.

The tables and 120 chairs were cleaned and packed away for travel, and he was still eating. I told our volunteers this homeless man example is why we must have a time to quit serving food.

We packed up his table, bringing him a shelf from the PA system to use as a table. He just sat and ate slowly.

We packed up the stage trailer, the bus, held our celebration prayer for our volunteer team, and still, he sat eating slowly, barely able to eat.

I am ashamed to say I was agitated — drained from being in the sun all morning. I even had his fork and chair taken, but I was checked in my spirit immediately and gave the fork back to him to keep.

He staggered around the front of the bus holding his food plate, looking for shade, and his pants suddenly fell down below his ankles. He looked as if he only had bones for legs.

I almost missed this opportunity. I repented, right there.

I am ashamed to say I was agitated at being delayed from my “schedule” — no excuse for it.

I am ashamed to say I thought more of “protecting ministry assets,” specifically volunteers’ time, a metal fork and a good dinner plate than a poor wretched soul without a sound mind or hope.

I am ashamed to say I wanted to go home and sit in air-conditioned comfort more than I wanted to help this homeless man in great need.

I am ashamed to say I almost missed the whole point of being a Christian by wanting to leave this homeless man a sack lunch and send him on his way instead of sharing God’s love.

I am ashamed to say I told my fellow volunteers our schedule is more important than caring for the needy.

Most Christians and churches should be ashamed because they say daily — by word and deed — that their priorities are more important than the commands of God and Jesus to “feed the hungry, clothe the naked.” I thank God for making me ashamed, for He truly “opened the eyes of my heart” to see the evidently invisible nation of homeless souls.

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About Kevin Barbieux

I have been diagnosed as being chronically homeless. I write about my experiences and opinions of being homeless

One comment

  1. John Currie

    I appreciate this post very much. I also like your title, “Consider the Lilies”, Matthew 6:28…

    Do Not Worry
    25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
    27Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
    28″So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
    31″Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or “What shall we wear?’ 32For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

    I have been considering becoming homeless by choice. I currently have a pretty good job in Los Angeles as an executive assistant making 38,000 salary. I have a car that I am making payments on, and a two-bedroom apartment that I share with a friend from church.

    The reason for my thinking about being homeless is this: I desire to help people – both spiritually and physically/materially. I try my best to do this now, but there is one factor that greatly affects the degree to which I can do this: time. I have very little free time, because including drive time, I am “at work” Monday through Friday from 7:45am to 7:30pm. If I sleep six hours, this leaves only six hours to do anything else. Using my time most efficiently leaves roughly four to five hours to either get closer to God myself or help other people to get close to God, or help in other ways. This is ridiculous to me.

    Based on how I allocate my time, it seems very clear that the most important thing in my life is ME. I spend 2/3 of my waking hours working for ME, so I can pay for things I think I need: car, apartment, food, clothes, entertainment, etc. Well when I break it down, all I really NEED is food. The passage in the Bible that I read above also emphasizes that we should not worry about these things. Interestingly, the only physical request mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer in the Bible is to “give us this day our daily bread.”

    So, if I need time to help others, I need to spend less time working. And if I spend less time working, I am going to need to eliminate expenses. This means no cell phone, no electricity, no gas bill, no eating out, no entertainment, no rent, no car payment, no insurance payment…. Hence homelessness.

    Aside from the obvious extreme mental, emotional, and physical hardships involved in such a decision, I have the following things that I am thinking about:

    1) People are going to think I am crazy and/or stupid. Who in their right mind would willingly choose to live on the streets? Irreligious people think giving up success is stupid. Religious people think there are more “sensible” ways to help others.
    2) Will I be able to survive? Can I handle this physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually?
    3) How will I work? Will I be able to find some way to work where I am able to work very little hours and yet still be able to feed myself? Will I be able to keep myself in a good enough appearance to keep a job?
    4) Will I be able to help others? Will people be put off from my message and from my offers of help because I am homeless? Without financial resources, will my impact be lessened?

    The way I see things, if I am serious about living for God, then that means putting him first in everything. Right now I am clearly living mainly for myself. I may be helping people some, but most of the time I am focused on ME. Jesus himself was homeless, saying in Matthew 8 in verse 20:

    The Cost of Following Jesus
    18When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

    20Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

    21Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

    22But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

    There are a lot of other things to consider also. Maybe you can help me see things more clearly. Thanks!

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