Busted Halo
feature: moral dilemmas
September 14th, 2010

Moral Dilemma #1: The Banker and the Beggar


Need to get up to speed with the first part of the dilemma? Read it here and vote/comment before moving on to The Wrinkle.

Want to know how other people responded to the first part? You can see the results here.

Already read parts one and two? Read our Expert’s Analysis of the dilemma and your responses.

Now we’d like to complicate the story just a bit more by telling you what happened next…

The Wrinkle

Jason takes a deep breath and tells the man that he’d be willing to buy him some hot food and call to make sure he gets taken to a shelter that night.

What Should Jason Do Now?

Click here to take survey

  • Give him the money and walk away?
  • Buy the homeless man some food and leave it next to him in case he changes his mind and decides to eat?
  • Call an ambulance?
  • Walk away?
  • Walk away and decide to give a larger donation to a homeless charity in the future?
  • None of these sound right to you? What do you think Jason should do now?

Read the results so far.

The homeless man says that the shelters are more dangerous than the streets and that he doesn’t want to lie to him: what he needs is some money so he can buy a cheap bottle of whiskey that will help keep him warm during the cold winter night.

Time for you to decide again. What’s the right thing for Jason to do now?

Read the results so far to the Wrinkle’s survey.

Already read parts one and two? Read our Expert’s Analysis of the dilemma and your responses.

Pages: 1 2 3

The Author : Bill McGarvey
Bill McGarvey is co-author of Busted Halo’s Freshman Survival Guide. Bill was editor-in-chief of Busted Halo for six year. In addition to having written extensively on the topics of culture and faith for NPR, Commonweal, America, The Tablet (in London), Factual (Spain), Time Out New York, and Book magazine, McGarvey is a singer/songwriter whose music has been critically acclaimed by the New York Times, Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, Billboard and Performing Songwriter. You can follow him at his website billmcgarvey.com or on Facebook.com/billmcgarvey
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • essaadi

    A banker and a poor beggar! The difference is huge!
    Two opposite and yet two tracks which are due to meet at the same crossroad : that of charity !
    Child, I learned to give charity. Even a tiny amount.
    And if I have nothing in my pocket, I say comforting words to the beggar. Never insult him or drive him away.
    Whenever I see a beggar, my heart weeps. Because I put myself in his place. Fate would have placed me in the same situation.
    I thank God to make me someone who puts his hand into the pocket to make a man happy!

  • Chris Brune

    @ Kristen – Surely not all bankers are swindlers. But when people are making the kind of money our hero is apparently making, with so little effort (witness the financial meltdown that has destroyed our economy while enriching a select few) one must be suspect. Wealth without work is one of Ghandi’s great moral evils.

    You are right that Mother Theresa would probably not drop a twenty in the guy’s lap and walked away. However, she would have understood that here is a fellow human being who is suffering, right now, and she would have done what she could to relieve that suffering.

  • Kristin

    @ Chris- First of all, assuming all bankers are swindlers is silly. Also, I think your two statements contradict each other. Mother Theresa would most certainly not have given the homeless man a $20 to spend as he saw fit. She would have brought him to a safe shelter (one of her own) given him a hot meal and made sure he got medical attention.

  • Chris Brune

    All this over-analysis is Pharisaical. It’s almost as if we are asking, “How little can I do and still feel good about myself?”

    First off, all the money the banker makes is probably gained through questionable means. In other words, he is screwing somebody out of something for his own profit. So he should not feel so high and mighty.

    The guy is hungry and cold right now. It is within the banker’s power to relieve that suffering with a $20 bill, probably less than he would spend on a round of drinks. He should give it, and never mind what the homeless man is going to do with it. If the money buys him some relief for a night, be it a flop-house room or a bottle of whiskey, so be it. None of the banker’s or our business. I don’t recall Jesus ever specifying a means test for our alms-giving.

    You want a simpler answer? Ask yourself, What would Mother Theresa have done?

  • lizziewriter

    Thanks for the story and survey. Now please post some info for us about what the experienced folks suggest (I don’t mean people writing studies in think tanks…. I mean people running food banks and outreach etc.)

  • Steve

    Good ol’ Jason’s $5,000 yearly donation to charity may be nice, but for someone who makes roughly $500,000, I think he could probably stand to give a little more than 1% of his income…

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