“These street kids are everywhere these days, it is like an infestation.”
Those were the words that left my lips last Saturday at our weekly community group meeting. A few gasps followed the sentence, and then nervous laughter. Someone volunteered an explanation: “we have a doctor in the room, and the word ‘infestation’ carries a lot of weight in the medical world.”
Perhaps “infestation” was a strong word, especially since I was using it to describe human beings. I was talking about the surge of street kids in Nairobi and how they seem to have filled every nook and cranny of our city and the government is not doing much to control them. I was complaining about how most of these street families have been found to be nothing but con-artists feigning poverty to enrich themselves by manipulating the compassion and generosity of unsuspecting Kenyans. Honestly, I have grown to feel towards them the way I would feel towards pests and parasites, hence my choice of words above.
I was in the middle of explaining why I have become so cynical lately that I seldom pay any attention to any child who approaches me on the sidewalk and says “uncle saidia” (help, uncle). Nowadays, I will even walk right past the blind and limbless beggars and not even glance in their direction. I have successfully convinced myself that: “There is no way of knowing whether they are genuine beggars or a sham, so I choose to distrust them all”. Rather than risk wasting my money on an undeserving liar, I have chosen to risk not helping the genuinely needy.
I hate being duped and I detest it when people think I am stupid and gullible. Furthermore, the last guy who recently approached me to ask for twenty shillings for food ended up threatening to hit me with human waste if I didn’t give him the money. See what I mean? You can’t trust these people. And so I don’t. I don’t waste my money on them. Not anymore. My naive days are behind me. I have grown numb to their sad and moving pleas for help. I have even mastered a few of witty responses (and lies) to get rid of the persistent ones.
And I know if you’re reading this and have walked the streets of Nairobi’s Central Business District lately, you share some (if not all) of my sentiments and frustrations. The government should really do something about these street families. We need to come up with a program that vets which are the genuinely needy cases and then set up a charity fund for them. I don’t mind giving under such a framework. But the way things are at the moment, I might as well just put my money outside my door for the neighborhood burglar to take when he comes around.
But then you come across passages like Luke 6 and suddenly you’re not so sure about how true all the things I have just said are anymore.
Jesus tells his disciples,
“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” [Luke 6:35-36]
I read that passage and I found myself suddenly conflicted about something that I thought was very straightforward. Here I am, “swearing” how I will no longer risk being duped by fake beggars. Here I am, feeling justified in my “non-giving” stance because of the possibility that these kids and the street-families are “wicked” and only out to fleece me and do me harm. Here I am, hearing Jesus telling me to “give to them anyway”, and my first instinct is to rationalize and explain away this passage. I am tempted to argue that this teaching does not apply to my situation.
But then I realize what God has done for me. Me, a guy who was once a God-cussing, sin-loving young man living my life for myself and caring zero about God or His glory. Me, a fornicator and a murderer at heart, stealing right before God’s eyes and lying to His face. Me, a sinner to the core. It is that me that God approached and decided to “love anyway”. It is that me that God looked at and loved and decided to send His son to die a brutal death on the Cross for my sake.
It was while I was still that me, that Christ died for me.
And now Jesus is calling me to do likewise to people who don’t deserve it. He calls me to give even with the possibility of being conned and looking stupid to bystanders who “know better”. God is calling me to be a “son of the Most High”, that is, a person who is “kind to the ungrateful and the wicked”.
To be honest, this is difficult. But then again, that’s exactly what God did for me. It wasn’t easy for Jesus. Especially since my problem was much worse than lying about whether I actually need twenty shillings or not.
God, please help me to obey this command and display your heart to the needy and “faking-needy’ world around me.
For the fame of Your name,