Re: poor or beggar

From: James H. Vellenga (
Date: Mon Apr 22 1996 - 08:35:55 EDT


I'm wondering if some of our differences stem from differing
understandings of the English word "beggar." For some, a beggar may be
someone who is worse off than someone who is merely "poor" -- hence, the
relevance of Carl's quote from Aristophanes. But for others of us, who
have seen people begging as a way of living, a beggar is not always
truly "destitute." I have, for example, known a man who regularly
showed up at our church trying to cadge either money or meals, but who
had a government-furnished apartment and a twice-weekly stipend. (Yes,
we did feed him.) And then there are, of course, the "mendicants," who
adopt a practice of diurnal economic dependency as a spiritual way of

But it seems to me, from a scan of several NT passages, that "destitute"
(or possibly "beggar" in the sense of "worse off than poor") is a better
choice than "mendicant." Cf., e.g., Luke 14.21: "Go out quickly into
the streets and alleys of the town and bring the PTWCOUS and crippled
and blind and disabled [people] in here!" It's hard, IMO, to imagine
that the householder is referring merely to spiritual mendicants in the
passage. Also cf. Luke 14.13, Matt 5.3ff., Luke 6.20-21.

On a more reflective note, this whole discussion is making me think
about the implications of

a) Mark 10.21: Is Jesus asking this conscientious plutocrat to give his
money (merely) to beggars, or rather to find people who are especially
needy, whether beggars or not?

b) Matt. 26.11: It's a little scary to think that we'll always have
people among us who are "worse off than poor." And a challenge.


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