Jesus instructed his disciples to give to those who asked of them. Does that extend to panhandlers? Churches in Sacramento find themselves mulling this issue.
Every week, many worshippers are confronted with another sign of the troubling economy: more homeless people approaching them as they enter church services.
The problem has gotten so bad in recent months that the Rev. Michael Moran of the Spiritual Life Center in midtown Sacramento addressed the issue with his congregation Sunday. "What is the correct spiritual response to this?" he asked.
Moran said that he had spoken to other concerned clergy in the area about the growing problem. Like Moran, they are struggling to do the right thing.
How do you respond to people who approach you for money on the street?
The story captures the ambivalence that many of us feel by quoting the Very Rev. Brian Baker, dean of Trinity Cathedral.
"We have a no panhandling policy," he said, adding that his church has an active ministry to help the homeless.
"If approached, then we tell our members to refer them to clergy and they will help them," Baker said.
But on a personal level, away from church, Baker always gives, and he refers to Jesus' message to help the poor.
"I can't say no," he said. "I carry small bills around with me."