Would Jesus give to a panhandler?

A few Sundays ago, a gentleman came into the church seeking a ride and some financial assistance. In this specific case, this gentleman is well-known to your clergy, and has been using the same story for as long as I have been here, and perhaps even longer.  (Without going into details, his story is demonstrably untrue.)  He may have real needs (I truly don’t know), but his method is dishonest. Fortunately, he only got a ride out of our parishioners, and no cash.

What should you do when a panhandler comes to Church?

  • Your safety is paramount. Under no circumstances should you allow anyone you do not know into your car.
  • You can refer them to Fairfax County Social Services: 703-222-0880.
  • Notify your clergy. Deacon Theresa, Fr. Paul and I have discretionary funds specifically for the purpose of helping others. Ask the individual to wait in the narthex (or, invite them to coffee hour for some refreshments) and seek out a member of the clergy.
  • When all else fails, go with your gut instinct. I believe the Spirit speaks to us in many different ways, and if you don’t feel comfortable with the situation, a polite, “I’m sorry, I don’t have anything to give,” is sufficient.
  • Lift them up in prayer. God knows what they truly need, we don’t.

Jesus did say, “Give to everyone who begs from you…” and if you know for certain that the person asking for assistance is in need of assistance, then Yes! Help them. But also know that you already help because government assistance is available.

Please see the Fairfax County website on what you need to know about panhandling in Fairfax county.

Father Jeff


The Rev. Jeff Shankles came to St. Alban’s in 2005 as assistant rector, and eventually became rector in 2013. He and his wife, Kate, have two adult children, Audrey and William.

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