This phrase, “Beggars shouldn’t be choosers.” is a common one that I’ve heard all my life. For that matter, I’ve not only believed it but I’ve also quoted it throughout my adult years. I recently looked up the definition to see what kind of explanation I would get and this is what The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms says,
Those in dire need must be content with what they get. For example, The cheapest item will have to do-beggars can’t be choosers.”
Let’s not allow this kind of thinking seep into our hearts of service and giving. When we do, it has the power to change our actions and our work ethic becomes less than admirable. We become susceptible to believing “You get what you get and that’s better than nothing.” Then we find ourselves giving crap away or doing crappy service projects.
This thinking has us patting ourselves on the back as we check out at the dollar store with 50 plastic cheaply made dolls that won’t last for more than 10 minutes or as we walk away from an unplanned and haphazardly put together vacation bible school project. We become okay with the bare minimum because the less fortunate or those in need should be grateful that we have given them anything at all. No! When we serve others and give to others, we need to make sure the message we are sending is–We care. You are valuable!
When we believe the idiom above we find ourselves thinking the following and even if we are not thinking it our actions say it loud and clear:
- It’s okay if we send cheap toys at least they got something. I personally have friends who distribute those crap toys that are sent and I know for a fact that most organizations would rather you send 10 good toys than 20 cheap toys that won’t last.
- It’s okay if we do a sloppy work project. After all, before we arrived their home was just another dirty shack. Yes, but the shack that’s falling apart and now sloppily painted, is home for them. Though their home may not seem like much to us, it’s the reason they go out every day into those dirty, hot streets so they can keep a roof over their heads.
- It’s okay if the clothes has stains with rips which we would never dare wear but they’ll be happy to at least have some clothes. They may be poor but they have dignity let’s not forget that.
Stop giving crap to the poor just because it makes us feel better or gives us an excuse to get rid of all the stuff we couldn’t bare to trash.
One year we had planned to give out lunches to the street kids as a group. Normally we just go out as a family but this time we had organized a whole group of people to join us. As I planned, I shared with the other coordinator that the lunches had to be made that day otherwise the bread gets soggy. Her response was shocking, “It’s okay. I’m sure they’ll just be happy to just get a lunch.” I couldn’t’ believe it. Maybe there was some truth in her statement but I could NOT personally give these street kids soggy lunch bread even if their starve-stricken tummies didn’t care.
I cared! It mattered to me.
I wish I could tell you that I am blameless in this area, but the fact is, I am not. Sometimes I find myself haphazardly giving things away and not checking them. I’m learning to be more conscious of the things we give to those in need, the less fortunate and the service projects we do. Especially now that we are on the receiving end, I’ve learned a lot. As a missionary family, many times we are considered a “family in need”. I remember this particular time a church group sent me a package from our “missionary wish list”. I was so excited to have such a “non-need” gift bestowed upon me. With much joy I used the items and immediately they started to warp in the microwave. My spirit was crushed. Not only because precious valuable suitcase space was used to send us this box but because I now I had to trash them. I have a plethora of stories not my own, but of friends who grew up going on furlough and given clothes from the “church missionary bins” that were from two decades ago. Clothes with stains and holes that were considered wearable, not by their own family, but for the missionaries.
I don’t think these church groups, service project groups, missions groups do this on purpose, but it’s time we start thinking about what we give and how we give it–maybe we are being called to give sacrificially. Most people don’t set out to do a crappy service project job in Honduras or give crap things to poor little kids in Zimbabwe but even with the best intentions you can subconsciously find yourself buying into this message of “Beggars shouldn’t be choosers.”
When we give generously we have the opportunity to whisper–You are valuable!
Beggars Shouldn’t Be Choosers vs Stop Giving Crap to the Poor
I had a friend tell me about a donor who dropped off a suitcase full of amazing toys that were new but as they checked each one they had a significant defect. The on and off switch of the toys didn’t work, parts were missing, it was damaged in… well you get the point, the toys were not working. She shared that she could NOT give these toys to anyone. She couldn’t bare to see those little faces anxiously awaiting a toy only to be crushed with disappointment to receive another gift that doesn’t work. I’ve witnessed this for myself and it’s heartbreaking. I share HERE more about this–How to Give Gifts to the Poor.
Have we bought into the mentality that “Beggars shouldn’t be choosers.”?
Maybe there’s a point to this idiom and beggars shouldn’t be choosey. But I assure you most of the people we have worked with would never complain. Those precious little kids just walk away with their broken doll and wheel-less toy and smile as they wipe away the tears. The adults look at you in the eye and with all sincerity they say, “Gracias!” to the sloppy paint job you did on the walls of their homes in the name of “missions”.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for service project, I love second hand stores and yard sales. I personally don’t mind giving and receiving gently used items, so it’s not about having to buy new and expensive things. But next time you give something to those in need or if you’re involved in a service project I challenge you to think about the following:
- Have we let this “Beggars shouldn’t be choosers” mentality seep in our hearts and effect our service and giving?
- Are you doing your service project in excellence and giving away quality items that whisper–You are valuable!?
- As believers we are called to remember that we don’t serve man but everything we do is a service to Him. “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people…” Eph. 6:7
- Are you sacrificially giving?
Note to parents: I recall back to the time when my oldest son was a toddler and in his most compassionate way he said to me with much excitement, “We need to give this to toy to the poor people, it doesn’t work anymore.” His little words convicted me! Not only did we need to model giving to our kids but we needed to show them AND explain that we don’t EVER give broken, ripped, and cheap things to those in need. I share HERE the one thing we changed in teaching our kids to give.
I’d love to hear what your experience has been like. Share in the comments below!
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