“I happen to think the whole modern attitude towards beggars is entirely heathen and inhuman. I should be prepared to maintain, as a matter of general morality, that it is intrinsically indefensible to punish human beings for asking for human assistance. I should say that it is intrinsically insane to urge people to give charity and forbid people to accept charity…Everyone would expect to have to help a man to save his life in a shipwreck; why not a man who has suffered a shipwreck of his life?”
G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) in Fancies Versus Fads as recounted in Lent and Easter Wisdom from G.K. Chesterton (Liguori: Liguori, 2007) 90.
Chesterton was brilliant with words. His society decried the giving and receiving of charity–the very heart of the gospel–and he was not ashamed to show them how absolutely crazy they were. He had a knack of doing it with disarming statements like this one, which is worth repeating: “Everyone would expect to have to help a man to save his life in a shipwreck; why not a man who has suffered a shipwreck of his life?”
The power of charity for a shipwrecked humanity is the way in which God personally delivered it. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). The question for each of us is will we succumb to society’s expectations or imitate our Savior for the shipwrecked lives around us? Know anyone who has “suffered a shipwreck” in life? Do something to aid them today.
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