The following is a very personal experience I had in the latter period of 1989 when I was residing in Las Vegas Nevada. I was 20 years of age at the time and unfortunately going through a rough patch in my young adult life. In those days I shared a room with a friend who ended up getting jailed for rigging slot machines in the hotel where he worked as a slot mechanic for jackpots for himself and others he was in with. Because of this circumstance I was unable to continue to make rental payments on time so I ended up getting evicted and eventually I became homeless.
I was homeless for about three months and literally living in a broken down car that belonged to the brother of one of my best friends. I was too proud to beg so I got by by doing small jobs around the neighborhood. If I saw a yard that needed to be cleaned or a lawn that needed mowing I would knock on the door and offer my services. Aside from that I had friends in the neighborhood who would bring me sandwiches from time to time and so I wasn't that bad off. My friends mom let me bathe in her home and she helped me retrieve a copy of my birth certificate and social from New York State. This enabled me to apply for a Nevada state id and I was able to apply for work while I was homeless.
A few days before thanksgiving a local baptist church had posted signs all over town that there was going to be a free thanksgiving dinner and that all were invited to attend. In those days I rarely had a complete meal so I decided to go. I was a believer but not a practicing Christian at the time and in those days God was the furthest thing from my mind: I was in survival mode.
On that day I showed up at the appointed time to partake of the free meal that was being offered and not surprisingly I saw that there were many homeless men and women who also attended. To my surprise I found that in order to partake of this meal you had to sit through an entire service. So I figured it cant be that bad, I've been to church before. The church was practicing what they believed was a mandate of God based on two texts of scripture in particular.
Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.' Matthew 28:19,20
4 But he replied, 'Scripture says: Human beings live not on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' Matthew 4:4
Based on these two texts of scripture they came to the conclusion that they must not only nourish our bodies but that they must also nourish our spirits with the word of God. In the end the service lasted for about 2 in a half hours! Here I was in a room full of angry homeless people who had grumbling stomachs and who themselves were grumbling under their breaths awaiting the distribution of a meal.
Although I appreciated the meal that day, I thought that they went about this in the wrong way. First they should have fed the people then let them decide if they wanted to stay for a service. I am considering the fact that some of those that were present have not had a decent meal in days in some cases. Besides the choice to believe in and to follow Jesus is a personal choice and should not be bartered in exchange for a meal. Either way their ruse did not work because everyone ate and left without Christ lol.
Realistically speaking, when it comes to survival all the prayers in the world will not fill an empty stomach. You can read the bible for inspiration till you go blind but that is not going to put food on your table or pay the bills or the rent. We are solely responsible for our own well being. If you don't work then you don't eat and if you don't eat then you will die.
When I give someone a helping hand in the streets with a meal or a couple of bucks which I don't do very often since there are so many scammers out here in New York City, I do so without expecting anything in return. I don't give them sermons about life or try to play the role of the counselor, I just feel good about myself when I can help someone else. What can I say I am a do gooder by nature: I am that guy that will help an old lady with her walker down a flight of stairs, or help a blind person cross the street. I am never in such a hurry that I can't take a moment to help someone out no matter how trivial the matter.
There is no God, there is only you and the rest of the world to help one another when we are called upon. One good deed does more than a thousand prayers for an individual; especially, when that good deed is done not for gain but out of the kindness of ones heart. Using charity events to proselytize in my opinion is just wrong.
Where I currently reside there is literally a church of one denomination or another on every other corner in either direction. If I feel that I need some false comfort and security one day, then I will turn to the church for their useless assistance. But when I feel that I need some real help such as a job and a means of getting back on my feet, I will seek out the aid of the local non-religious free community services and resources available.
I would like to end this post with one of my favorite quotes from Frederick Douglas who was a former slave that managed to escape and obtain his freedom: "I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs." In other words: he took action and ran for his life. If he would have waited on God he probably would have been just another slave to die and fade into obscurity like the many before and after him.
Note: All scripture quotations come from the New Jerusalem Bible