I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess. Martin Luther
Most of us think we are immune from homelessness, so are not concerned with our possible downfall; and that is exactly what it is- in most cases, a slow slinking spiral of others lack of caring. Also, because the homeless are shadow people, barely in our eyesight or consciousness, we tend to dismiss them as non-beings not deserving of our attention or concern. However, in a blink of an eye, we can each be prone to the destructive forces of destiny in which we have no control. That is why God reveals to us the precariousness of our so called stable positions in prophetic revelations of the last days by the Old Testament prophets, Jesus, and the Prophet Muhammad. The end times imagery described by the prophets is rife with loss of control.
The humans that God created are fragile, but surprisingly so blown up with ego, that we forget who the Almighty is, we forget to fear, we forget to honor Him in all our ways, we forget to praise Him, the Creator of heaven and earth. Instead, we pursue selfish ambition and subsequently believe we have the power to reach heaven. This is evident in a story in the Qur’an about the arrogance of Pharoah:
” Pharoah said: ‘O Haman! Build me a lofty palace that I may attain the ways and means of [reaching] the heavens. And that I may mount up to the god of Moses- but as far as I am concerned, I think Moses is a liar!” (40:36-37)
As a result of the Pharoah’s pride, God shows himself to be the one in power over all the other gods the Egyptian’s worshiped, and subsequently, the Pharoah is later killed in a drowning by God. The same concept of humans believing they have control, and God proving to them otherwise, is seen in the story of “The Tower of Babel” in the O.T. (Genesis 11:1-9):
“Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, ‘Come let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’ But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will not be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel– because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world.”
The people thought they could determine their own fate so they wouldn’t be “scattered over the face of the whole earth,” and as a result, God showed them His Almighty power by doing exactly that – scattering them all over the world. The similarity in the two stories are humans attempting to build a tower to heaven which is a metaphor for humans placing themselves at an equal level with God the Creator, and thinking that somehow they have control over the One who created them.
In looking at the prophecies regarding the Last Days in the O.T., Isaiah uses imagery to contrast God’s power with humans lack of control and powerlessness:
Isaiah 2:12: For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning
Against everyone who is proud and lofty
And against everyone who is lifted up,
That he may be abased.
12: 17 : The pride of man will be humbled
And the loftiness of men will be abased;
And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day,
18 But the idols will completely vanish.
19 Men will go into caves of the rocks
And into holes of the [f]ground
Before the terror of the Lord
And the splendor of His majesty,
When He arises to make the earth tremble.
20 In that day men will cast away to the moles and the bats
Their idols of silver and their idols of gold,
Which they made for themselves to worship,
21 In order to go into the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs
Before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty,
When He arises to make the earth tremble.
22 [g]Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils;
For [h]why should he be esteemed?The pride of man will be humbled
And the loftiness of men will be abased;
And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day,
In the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25), Jesus is leaving the temple when his disciples excitedly point out the magnificence of the temple buildings. The first temple which was built by Solomon becomes a representation of Solomon’s wealth and status instead of its true purpose which was to be a place of worship and prayer for all nations. Subsequently, because of Solomon’s sin of worshiping his wives gods, the temple is later destroyed. Jeremiah records Yahweh as saying, “I swear by Myself…that this house shall become a desolation” (Jer 22:5). The second Temple was one of Herod’s many lavish building projects and Josephus (historian), describes the temple as thus: “…It was a structure more noteworthy than any under the sun. The height of the portico was so great that if anyone looked down from its rooftop he would become dizzy and his vision would be unable to reach the end of so measureless a depth…” Additionally, the building was of shining white marble and gold, with bronze entrance doors, and was so blindingly bright that you could not look at in daylight. However, “As a result of Herod’s interference and the ever-spreading Hellenistic influences among the Jewish upper classes, the Temple hierarchy became very corrupt. The Sadducees, a religious group of the wealthy, who collaborated with the Romans in order to keep their power base, now controlled the Temple, much to the chagrin of the mainstream. The cauldron was beginning to boil and soon it would erupt” (http://www.aish.com/jl/h/cc/48942446.html).
Jesus responds to His disciples by revealing to them the future destruction of the temple in 70 AD, and the fiery end times (Luke 21), while Matthew reports a scathing rebuke, “See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (28:38-39).
“And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering, but she out of her poverty in all that she had to live on.’ And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, He said, ‘As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.’ They questioned Him, saying, ‘Teacher, when therefore will these things happen? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place? And He said, ‘See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them. When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but end does not follow immediately.’ Then he continued by saying to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name. Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people, and they will fall be the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (1-24).
“Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. But keep on alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (v. 34-36).
In the destruction of both temples, we see God destroying that which man has build up to His own glory. In the end times destruction, God humbles humans while displaying His mighty power.
It is easy to dismiss the homeless because of the self deceiving quality of denial which believes that all homeless brought their suffering state upon themselves, so must deal with the consequences. And yet God reveals His great power and control over our egos by showing us how easily we can lose control.
A Personal Story of Homelessness
My descent began with being married to a man with ADHD who refused to take medication, and subsequently lost job after job in Pharmaceuticals due to his inability to focus. We experienced move after move, disruption after disruption with a special needs daughter who had numerous medical issues, and learning disabilities. Due to our daughter’s special needs and constant moves, I ran my own businesses to allow for flex time to drive her an hour away to Specialist appointments, and many school meetings to advocate for her education needs. I was called by God to be a Pastor three years ago, so immediately closed my Photography business and began a ministry curriculum. A year and a half ago, God directed me to divorce my husband due to his sabotaging of my ministry and our marriage. We became separated and he moved to another state to take a consulting job which ended three months later. We jointly filed for divorce, and now almost two years later he has still not found a job, so does not provide maintenance or child support. I became a certified Pastor, but was not offered a position at the church I attended. During this interim, after studying Islam and praying for God’s direction, I converted to Islam.
I met a woman at our local library who was homeless and invited her to stay with us, but admitted to her we could be evicted as well. She had worked in another state, and after a layoff couldn’t find another job, so ended up being evicted from her apartment, and living in her car. Both of her parents died when she was in college, and she was an only child. However, she has Christian cousins who are aware of her circumstances, but are not willing to take the harder step of allowing her to live with them until she can get back on her feet.
I have no contact with my family due to extreme dysfunction, and after leaving my church had lost a few contacts. My daughter and I were evicted from our townhome, and she went to stay with a friend’s family, while I entered the cold, hard reality of homelessness. It is mid-winter here in Colorado, so I slept in my car the first few nights with a down jacket, and a light blanket. Needless to say, I got very little sleep, and struggled with a car battery that was slowly dying. The third night I slept in a family homeless shelter. The women are checked in at 10:00 pm., but up to that time it is up to the homeless person to find a warm place which is difficult. That is why you see so many homeless people in libraries – it is the only place they have to go during the day to stay warm.
At one point in the Gospels Jesus states: “Foxes have dens, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” Once Jesus ministry began, he was constantly on the move, and frequently surrounded by large groups of people. This is why He even left his group of twelve disciples to go privately go off on own. Imagine this – you are bone dead tired, and yet there is no place to go and lay down to rest. Imagine you are freezing, but you are trapped outside with no place to get warm. Imagine in this stressful environment you become sick, but have no place to get well – that is until you become so sick you are brought to an emergency room. Imagine the look on a Coroner’s face when he or she pronounces a homeless person dead, but there are no family or friends to contact. Imagine being used to having respect, but as soon as you become homeless everyone’s treatment of you changes for the worse. Imagine doing everything possible to access resources to get back on your feet, but you find there is very little available. Funding, you know. Imagine feeling yourself get smaller and smaller, until you are almost invisible. Imagine feeling the deep understanding that no one gives a damn about you – no one cares. Imagine feeling that now your life has no meaning or purpose, so you turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain. Each day slips by, one after the other, into oblivion.
See the people, see their eyes. See life passing you by. Your hope gets dimmer and dimmer, your life gets darker and darker. See the pregnant woman homeless, see the mentally disabled with no place to sleep, see a woman like your grandmother wearing a beautiful coat – but pushing a shopping cart of her belongings through the dark cold night. See the homeless single women at risk for beating or rape. See the parent with children exposed to the harshness and brutality of real life. See the religious walking by on the other side of the street. See there are no safety nets in place to keep many off of the cold, unfeeling streets. See those who God loves, unloved.
Certainly some homeless people choose to continue using drugs and/or alcohol and refuse to discontinue their use, but there are many who don’t and need a way to get in a safe, stable environment. However, oftentimes, there is no way out. There is no way out, because of the over satiated state of our society. Over satiation creates calloused hearts, and calloused hearts give bandaid solutions to a life threatening situation. It is giving the most minimal assistance possible like passing out sandwiches and patting yourself on the back. I’ve seen young men in Denver passing out cases of beer to the homeless instead of food or money.
The People of the Book are called by their prophets to help the poor and needy, the orphans, the widows, and all those in distress. Otherwise, the prophets warn, those who refuse will suffer God’s consequences. Jesus states in Matthew’s Olivet Discourse in Chapter 25:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me,you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
You can have your entire stable lifestyle be destroyed in a flash – a flash filled with stress, frustration, sadness, loss of hope, loss of faith. You are not immune – don’t ever forget, because God can and will bring you out of your careless stupor.
There needs to be more programs in place that prevent homelessness – that is the first most important step. The second most important step is for religious organizations to provide assistance in the harder, more deeper way by going deep into their pockets to pay for housing, and other needs. To provide job searching assistance, and every other resource to get people back on their feet – especially women, and families. Thirdly, relatives need to understand they have a responsibility to those in their extended family – the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) teaches we are to help those in need of our families first. Christian family members should be the first to offer help to their relatives, but oftentimes they don’t – its easier just not to deal with a family member who need that level of assistance. Give them a few dollars, and turn your heads the other way.
We are all going to be held accountable at the Judgement Day for the way we treated the needy. Don’t forget, don’t turn you backs, don’t turn you heads and walk the other way. For God is watching. His eyes are on the poor.