Begging in the New Forest

We spent last weekend in Brockenhurst, a small town in the New Forest, boasting a main line station, one of the jewels in the suburban crown of the County of Hampshire. A pretty village, quirky shops, even Tesco and Sainsbury, full of tourists and locals alike, and even the occasional visitors with hooves, all intermingling in a scene of busyness. A place of affluence, expensive housing, multi-star hotels, up-market cars, Range Rovers, Audis, shouting out the prosperity of a society with money.

But in front of Tesco sat a beggar. A sad-looking man, seemingly mildly embarrassed, with a cup and a few coins on the ground in front of him. Who was he? What brought him to this place of all places? Where was he living? Why did he have to beg? Unanswered questions, but relevant nevertheless. But his presence shouted out the inherent inequalities of this age to a society populated by the have’s and the have not’s. An age with so many contradictions, so many differences, so much unfairness.

Jesus came for all men and women, rich and poor alike, beggars and accountants, single mums and doctors, paupers and priests. Matthew 5:3 states, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. Only when we truly come to that place of realising our spiritual poverty in repentance at the foot of the Cross, can we inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. We are all equal there, whether rich or poor.

But that’s all very well – what about my Brockenhurst beggar, or any beggar come to that? Society considers them a nuisance. Councils raise bye-laws banning them. The challenge to me is another verse in Matthew 5 – verse 42. “Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” Stories abound of beggars earning large sums. Others spending what they get on drink or drugs. None of that is for me to judge – God Himself will do that one day. Perhaps I need to be more diligent in asking my heavenly Father for guidance and discernment so that I can do His will and take the time to compassionately minister to those genuinely in need. To those He wants to bless.

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