I am convinced that the main people that we show mercy, help or feel sorrow for are the people in our view who are innocent. It is hard to have mercy or help those that we think that deserve their status in life, whether that be prison, homeless, have some STD etc. If we can convince ourselves this person deserves our help than we help them, but if they are in their prediciment by their own doing so long.
Case in point if we come upon a homeless person what is the first thought? I am not going to give them money because they are going to spend it on booze or drugs. We are justifying it in our minds that they do not deserve mercy. I am not saying that they wont spend it on booze because there is the chance.
Why are we more likely to send money to a mission organization who supports poor African children? We think they deserve it, they didn't do anything to deserve their situation. This may be partially true, but is this really the thought process that God wants his people to have when dolling out mercy and grace.
Does our charity need to have anything to do with who we think are worthy or not? I just finished reading two books: one on self justification (it was along the lines of blink and the tipping point) and the other on two guys who decided to become homeless for 5 months to see how life was like on the streets.
Human nature is strange, in the self justification book (I cant remember the name of it) there is a whole chapter on the criminal justice system and many examples of the ends justifying the means. Such as a police officer raids a house and the people flush the drugs down the toilet, in order to still arrest them they drop some planted drugs in the house in order to arrest the people. In their minds it justifies putting them in jail because obviously they were guilty. This book went on to share stories and stats about how when a police officer will change his tactics if he/she believes one is guilty, and if the officer believes the defendent is guilty every piece of evidence will be held in that light.
This is the way we live, if we believe something and some piece of evidence is brought up to refute this, we tend to refute the evidence rather than change our views. We have all done it, we have stubornly stood up for faulty thinking even in the light of new evidence, we don't want to admit we are wrong.
Now putting that into the context of our thinking of the poor and needy lets try for a second to use the example of Jesus. Does he at any point try and justify his giving to the deserving? Does he try and justify why he helped some and not others? Self justification in my mind is not a trait of Jesus. When we self justify is it to convince others or our self?
In the other book I read it the two men on their journey through America being homeless. They were the most suprised at their being treated by the church. They were looked down upon and told not to come to certain functions because of their apperance. It is hard to have for many of us to have compassion on the homeless because we have been told that these people don't deserve our compassion and sympathy.
Let's face it none of us are innocent bystanders, I am glad Jesus didn't just die for those He thought deserved it.