To give or not to give, that is the question.

Whether ‘tis more blessed to be nickel-and-dimed by panhandlers (read $5 or $10) in order to make yourself feel better, or to ignore them in hopes they will go away, that is the real unspoken dilemma, isn’t it?

For people of faith, here’s the rub: Jesus says, “Give to everyone who begs from you” (Lk. 6:30). Panhandlers are begging; so, if we are to be obedient followers of Jesus, we must give. Right?

Well, let’s think. If your 18-year-old son were to refuse to go to school, sleep until noon, eat your food, drive your cars, and come out of his room only to rehearse the drama of how hard his life is, you would rightly boot him out on his keister and not think twice about it. You would also claim this a loving act, since you have the well being of your son at heart. If he shows initiative, however, contributes to the family, makes an effort to find a job, you would support that generously.

Not all the needy fit this profile. A few chronic charlatans give hurting people a bad name and undermine community welfare. Don’t reward them. But the many needy must not be neglected on account of the few takers. Honest reflection on how best to help must not devolve into cold-heartedness toward the poor or justify mean-spirited politics that gut government programs and hurt even more.

Dallas is filled with under-funded churches and social service agencies ready to help the hungry, the jobless and the homeless, as well as victims of abuse, mental illness and chemical dependency. These proven vehicles for freeing people from poverty deserve enthusiastic support. Organizations preserve the relationship and responsibility we have to serve the poor without enabling, trapping or judging those in need.

Begging is a supply-and-demand business like any other. If the money dries up and the only way to get help is to go to the Wilkinson Center or the White Rock Center of Hope or the Salvation Army or Catholic Charities that will look into the whole array of needs of a person or family, then the beggars will do just that and really be helped. Every dollar given on a street corner could be better given to a benevolence agency. More than ever now, they need your help in order to help others.

The question is not to give or not to give, but whom to give to or how?