Dr. Stephen Phinney
Christ | Culture | Creator
No Pillow for My Head
Jesus *said to him, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." (Matt. 8:20)
Homelessness has been around since the days of Noah. Every nation suffers from it, and for most, it can happen in the blink of an eye.
I was homeless for a couple of years after graduating from high school. They didn’t call us homeless back then. The term used was vagrants. I was too proud to beg, so I learned the fine art of compassionate stealing. I was a modern-day hippy Robin Hood. Meaning I was paid to steal. I made a pretty good living by looking like a vagabond while stealing you blind.
The United States government states homelessness as:
living on the streets (primary homelessness)
moving between temporary shelters, including houses of friends, family, and emergency accommodation (secondary homelessness)
living in private boarding houses without a private bathroom or security of tenure (tertiary homelessness)
have no permanent house or place to live safely
While these definitions are true, there is a deeper meaning to homelessness.
Homelessness traditionally has a back story. These backstories are typically where the healing needs to occur. Even though I grew up in a home where my parents reinforced the principle of work first play later, I was introduced to compassionate stealing at the ripe age of 5-years. My brothers and I concocted a plan to rob a candy truck. While my brothers were busy keeping the truck driver occupied, my job was to load up candy bags from the back of the truck. Since my brothers failed in keeping their end of the arrangement, the truck driver caught me in the act. I began to cry while fabricating a story that my family was poor and needed food. The truck driver gave me a few candy bags, and off I went.
I learned something that day. I realized that people would freely give under the conditions of compassion. All I needed was a good story. As I grew up, I developed an attitude of what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine. This morphed into stealing from the rich to sustain my friends. It was no wonder why I became a socialist hippy.
While many choose to be homeless for various reasons, most are forced into this depraved state through wars, economic crises, house fires, natural disasters, and pandemics. The primary reason for the significant jump in numbers for 2022 was directly connected to COVID-19. A few weeks before the virus hit, the United States declared a national homeless emergency. After the first year of COVID, the homeless crisis in America became a pandemic in and of itself. Today the crisis has shifted into "chronic homelessness." Meaning the psychological effects of homelessness bind them from being freed from their dark world. Once anything goes chronic, the person becomes dependent on their survival system versus finding solutions to rejoin normative societies. The leading system becomes government support.
The national homeless chart reveals the leading states with the most homeless people – California, Oregon, New York, Washington, and Hawaii. Each of these states happens to be the same states that promote socialism. The same states have politicians who have difficulty connecting the dots of homelessness to their political agenda. What they don't realize is the problem is not homeless people. Most of their homeless have faded into "chronic homelessness." Statistics reveal that once a person chooses or is forced onto the street, they have one year to get back on their feet, or chronic living conditions become their norm. Thus, their politicians are forced to cloth, feed them, and assist in living conditions, making the problem worse. While they keep the gateway for drug dealers open, all of this results in advancing socialistic ideologies.
You would think a socialist politician would see the trap they created. And they do. However, their justification is a Robin Hood fantasy – steal from the rich to care for the poor. The challenge is the rich became rich because they worked for their pleasures. Most have the attitude of "pull yourself up by your bootstraps and start working." Even the Word of God says, "If you don't work, you don't eat." So, where is their logic? Believe it or not, the liberal socialist politicians make BIG money off of homelessness. If the crisis is not dealt with, humanitarian services will label the homeless as "mentally ill." Sad to say, when the masses lose their passion for working, their mental state becomes flawed by the day. When the rise of "mental illness" becomes a country's norm, crime goes through the roof.
CHRISTIANITY & HOMELESSNESS
Most offer the homeless more shelters, free food, and eat without working programs. All of these are great ideas. However, the focus should be on the homeless who are in their first year. Vocational re-training works best when a person has fresh memories of the benefits of working to survive. As for the chronic individuals, there must be a renewal of mind, which classically takes several years for each individual. Although, the success rate is very low. But as authentic Christians, this is what we are designed to do – disciple the depraved. In fact, Jesus calls us to feed the hungry and employ the poor. Finally, for the last group, the unreachable or depraved mind types, love on them while not being manipulated by them.
Before socialism was the norm of "helping" the homeless, for centuries, authentic
Christians have been at the forefront of servicing the poor and converting each to be productive in the communities they live in. Jesus functioned like this. His goal was not to feed their tummies alone; He always had the objective of using food and clothing to stimulate a passion for serving Him. It might sound selfish, but it was/is not. He clearly understands that productive lives breed a productive society, or should I say, Church.
For example, Jesus said these words, When Jesus heard this, He said to him, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Luke 18:22) In this challenging proclamation, you can see His objective – come, follow Me. Once the individual is in a mindset of minimally following Jesus, His teachings in the "how" to live will become the norm. Jesus was NOT promoting socialism. He cares deeply regarding blessing His Bridal members with rewards/treasures in Heaven. Giving is an investment in your eternal bank account in Heaven. However, giving irresponsibly blocks this blessing and creates a chronic world that begs others to pay their way.
Some theologians believe that most Christians will be homeless for the right reasons in the last days – they were forced into a lifestyle that the early Christians were accustomed to. When, not if those days arrive, real-deal Christians will gather and care for one another as forewarned by Jesus. It won’t be about survival. It will be about the overflow of Christ's love through each of us to show the depraved world what it looks like to care for the homeless.
Always remember, homeless people as a whole are NOT mentally ill. They are overcome by sadness, regret, and hopelessness. When any human fades into such a condition, their hearts grow faint. When that happens, their world shrinks to the size of their noses. Meaning their behavior will be addicted to dependence. Their world will be as large as their tents, and their survival instinct will master their souls.
God allows needy and poor people in the world to share the Gospel one hamburger at a time. Once the tummies of these hurting souls are full, a supernatural question classically comes to their mind, “Why are you helping me?” Our answer, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that you, Mr. Homeless, could have life eternal.
Never give cash to a homeless person. It defeats Christ’s objective. Plus, many, if not most, will head to their local alcohol or drug provider to purchase the snare that keeps them entrapped in the enemy's system of dependence. My suggestion is to take them to an eatery and feed them while you share the most powerful story – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Don’t forget to evangelize them by leading them to indwelling salvation. If possible, offer them a lowly job, like scrubbing your toilets. Don’t worry about them using you. When we impart the Truth through words and deeds, the Word promises us that it will NEVER return void. Mission outreach without the Gospel is next to worthless. In many respects, it sends them deeper into “chronic homelessness.”
In conclusion, my homeless story does have a closing punch. After being saved from the streets, I was offered a job that cared for the county's poverty-stricken people. Since my heart was darkened, I ultimately used this job to advance my drug dealing further. One year after being employed, I was caught AND fired. Now on the verge of hitting the streets again, I received a letter from a young lady encouraging me to apply for a job assisting the mentally & physically challenged. Being desperate, I applied and got the job. However, the job I applied for was Director of Community Services. The job I got was cleaning toilets on the night shift.
When I left the CEO's office to sign my contract, who did I meet? The young lady who sent the letter was also signing her contract. Well, long story short, I married that gal. God used two people to teach me the power of work first and play later – Jane VerSteeg & Bob Hogaveen.
Years later, I went back to Mr. Hogaveen and asked him why he had me clean toilets for two years. He instinctively knew that a true compassionate leader would be born once my arrogance was gone. Boy, was he right.
My life lesson. Homelessness is often, not always, filled with proud people. People who find it difficult to humble themselves and clean the “crap” from the rims of rich people. In my case, it became the doorway to being a lifelong advocate of serving Christ by assisting in cleaning up the “crap” of the wealthy AND the less fortunate.
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