Homelessness - Stereotypes

"If a man comes into your church dressed in expensive clothes and with valuable gold rings on his fingers, and at the same moment another man comes in who is poor and dressed in threadbare clothes, and you make a lot of fuss over the rich man and give him the best seat in the house and say to the poor man, 'You can stand over there if you like or else sit on the floor'—well, judging a man by his wealth shows that you are guided by wrong motives. Listen to me, dear brothers: God has chosen poor people to be rich in faith, and the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs, for that is the gift God has promised to all those who love him."
- James 2:1-5

Stereotypes associated with poverty abounded in Jesus' day, even among those who called themselves Christians. For some, poverty was looked upon as a punishment for past sins, so it was only natural to avoid those who had disobeyed or disappointed God. For others, poverty represented a deficiency of character - someone who did not work hard enough to deserve an abundant life. Yet in this letter from James, he turns the tables with the absurb declaration that God has deliberately chosen poor people to be rich in faith. Not only that, but faith must be the measure of true wealth, because the entire Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who have it.

Today, the homeless are seen in much the same light as the poor were when James wrote his letter: lazy, dangerous, unworthy, deficient. Hear what those who work with the homeless have to say about these stereotypes...

The stereotypes of the homeless begin to break down when you hear the personal stories of people who have faced homelessness. Take Eileen, for example - a single mom with four children, an abusive ex-boyfriend,  and a minimum-wage job who simply couldn't find a way to keep a roof over their heads...

Questions to Consider:

  • What stereotypes do you have about the homeless?
  • Where do you think these ideas came from?
  • How true do you think these stereotypes really are?
  • Do some of these stereotypes have a basis in reality?
  • How can you learn more about the reality of homelessness?