However, what makes this interesting is the content about Breakthrough Urban Ministries, who seeks to help panhandlers in a Christian manner.
"Be careful when giving money to someone in need. I've known people who [give out] granola bars and fruit and maybe a little scripture verse or something that can send them to Breakthrough for more complete help."
We've learned that lesson a long time ago. When you give out food, you are helping those who genuinely need help--several times I've known beggars to be very grateful when given an inexpensive sandwich or small food item. More often, though, you ask someone if they are begging because they are hungry; they respond yes, and then refuse the food you give them! These we know are after the easy money and not barely scraping by. Also, providing information to actually improve their cause seems wise, if they choose to take it.
But then the approach takes a decidedly discouraging turn. What is the ultimate solution? Their director claims:
Forming a relationship and caring about someone on the street will make more of a lasting impact than spare change.
Get to know their names. Find out what their stories are. Learn about them personally. Before long, they'll stop asking you for money, because they know that you care about them...[We need to] continue to love and pour out love; to keep our hearts soft we need to know that, if we're going to err, let's err on the side of mercy, because mercy triumphs over judgment.
There's a lot of truth in what she is saying--doing so will help them more than giving them money. And hallelujah for this amazing truth, that God's mercy does triumph over his judgment. It is indeed safest to strive to show more mercy whenever there is doubt.
However, please see the huge flaw in her reasoning; she is not addressing their biggest need. She is hoping to show them Christ's mercy by first being merciful, but she is advocating "friendship" evangelism, not extending the true mercy of the gospel following the law. God will never reveal his mercy to them unless they understand that judgment is possible, that their sin has separated them from God and that they are under imminent threat of torment. Only when this is real is the gospel meaningful; only when people know we regard them as wretched sinners and yet see us still help them will they begin to understand anything about God's mercy.
It seems Paul's words are directed right at this approach, from Romans 10:14-17:
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
The greatest need of a beggar is to have his sins forgiven and his wicked, corrupt heart changed by the Holy Spirit. God has chosen the message of the gospel as his ordained way of doing so. Should we make "friends", get to know people? Of course, but that takes second place to announcing the gospel and helping them understand their wretched condition and God's terms on how to escape that. The biblical examples of Paul, Peter, and Jesus was to preach the gospel first and foremost, making friends and enemies all along, never compromising and never failing to preach on sin, righteousness, judgment, and Christ's mercy.
There is no kinder, more loving thing than to show sinners their need for a Savior and then tell him who that Savior is.
1 Corinthians 9:16:
For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!