The number one question I get asked by well-meaning Christian folks who want to “help the homeless” always centers around panhandlers and being “taken advantage of”. I will tell you how to avoid being taken advantage of by homeless and panhandlers. In fact, how to quit being taken advantage of by anyone.
Give up ownership of what you are giving away.
If I give you a sweater for Christmas, and you take and swap it for a toaster, did you take advantage of me? No, because when I gave it to you, I gave up ownership of the sweater.
If I give you money for your birthday, and you buy video games with it, even though you need a new shirt, you did not take advantage of me, even if you did make poor choices.
Likewise, if you give a panhandler a $10 bill, and he buys a beer with it, he did not take advantage of you. He took the gift you gave him and exercised his free will to buy what he wanted to buy with your gift.
When you gave it away, you gave up ownership. At that point, the only way you can be taken advantage of is if you somehow feel that you still have rights over that money. Which means that you think you have rights over the person spending the money.
Which, quite frankly, says a lot about you.
Look, I am not saying you should necessarily give panhandlers money. In fact, I talk a lot about this issue here and here. But I am saying that much of what passes for concern about the wellbeing of the panhandler is, in fact, our own issues of control.
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