In response to the interesting and important issue of 'Drawing On Charity and For How Long?' that has been raised, I have written the following: (Keep in mind I do not draw on the Government Centerlink benefits and my thinking is still developing; so I am interested in other points of view as well.)
As the elderly lady I recently met said: "you need to please God first."
Jesus said 'I did not come to do my will, but the will of my father'. When we say 'what I want is...' we are creating expectations, rules and restrictions on how God can relate to us and direct our lives. For example if I say 'I only want to:- work in Australia' then I am telling God that I am not interested in his will if it involves working outside Australia. In effect we can be closing our eyes and ears as to the possibilities God may have planned for us. (This doesn't mean we can't make decisions about our own futures. We can, and move forward in faith that God is with us, but we also need to be open minded to God wanting to talk to us about other possibilities.)
Part of this Faith Walk is to 'seek God first' and spend time being open and listening to what he might want to say about what he wants me to do with my future. I never said the Faith Walk would go on forever, but as God leads. I believe he will make it clear when and how things are to change, and for this Faith Walk I didn't feel it was right to put a time limit on that. In Israel there are Orthodox Jews that decide to do nothing else but seek out God (ie: do a Faith Walk) and are sponsored to do so by the State, no matter how long they continue to 'seek', even if it lasts a lifetime. A vocation of seeking God is seen as a central and valuable part of many cultures.
So is it a problem that I am drawing on charities for some food? If I take a traditional missionary template and put my bank account number on this blog and ask people to donate, so that I had support of about $70 a week to cover food costs, would that solve the issue? Or would it still be seen as drawing on the charity of others? The charities I have drawn on are Christian based, and so I see it as a part of the provision of God. Christian charities are under God's authority, doing work for God's glory. Are we all not part of the one body? What if the hand said 'I am my own entity, why should I put food in the mouth?' Also King David took the bread from the priests to feed himself and his men, and the early Church pooled resources and 'each took as he needed.'
So then I ask: am I doing God's will (his work) that as an acting part of the body of Christ, I am justified in having my needs met by the body? If you read my posts and think I am just sitting on my bum in the city being lazy, then certainly I am not justified in accepting the support of others. But if, as I do, you see Godly value in my Faith Walk, (be it by reflecting Christ in the relationships I am developing, or personal learning about God, poverty and justice issues in Melbourne, or by raising these Biblical issues with others, or just being a light in the darkness, or some other aspect) then I am justified.
Lets look at the Collins St Baptist Church's 'Urban Seed' model. Among other things, they have 'live in' residents that run a cafe (Credo) and sit and eat with street people that visit. Is it wrong that these residents are drawing on the charity funding for their accommodation and the food they eat there? What if they ran the cafe and didn't eat with the visitors? They think that sharing in the 'banquet' and developing the relationships is more important than abstaining from the food because it was not paid for out of their own independent financial resources.
In my case I am eating food with many people that are not connected to any other charity or Christian relationship. If I end my Faith Walk and go and join an 'established charity' tomorrow, who will represent God in their lives? For God to reach them, he must find people who are willing to go and meet them. Does not God in his 'banquet' story invite the rich and also the poor, blind crippled and lame. He sends his servants out to the streets and alleys to find them. In our culture there is quite a separation between the rich and poor. Do you think that at that banquet the rich and poor would sit at separate tables? No, Jesus says everyone should go and sit at the lowliest position, and then you can be pleased if God calls you to come sit at a more important position. This is because God sees the wealth and value of people in a different way to how we may value ourselves. In reflecting that in our lives today, as we are provided for by God, where do we place ourselves, who are we sitting next to? Perhaps God does not see me sitting down the back of a rubbish tip alley eating with a homeless person as of little value, as other people might.
Take for example, how I found the bike light module blinking in the dark out on Swanston St. It seems like a bad and dangerous position for a light module, but it was noticed and picked up. I feel a bit like that module, out in a socially bad, dangerous position, but as light for Jesus blinking in the cultural darkness. If someone notices my light and 'picks it up' then isn't that worthwhile and may even be just what God planned?
Finally, I also see my journey like a seed that has been planted (me in Melbourne), to grow a tree (reaching out to others about God), and you can't rush growing a tree. And if it is a tree that bears the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; isn't it worth watering, feeding and encouraging?
How then the tree is watered, fed and encouraged is up to the Gardener, and perhaps after some growth it may be re-planted in another area, but that is up to the Gardener too.
I hope I am growing in a way that pleases him.