Social Experiment: Homeless vs. Businessman
Main Point: As Jesus’ followers, we must be willing to help anyone who needs it…regardless of what they look like.
The Discussion Starter:
In this video produced by online video team DM Pranks, viewers are shown what happens when a crutch-assisted man wearing a suit falls down…and what happens when a crutch-assisted man wearing shabby clothes falls down. The answer: just what you think.
The whole point is to see how many people will risk helping a complete stranger simply based on how that complete stranger is dressed. To help viewers literally keep score, the video editors put the number of times the “business man” is helped – and how many times the “homeless man” is ignored – on the screen.
You might be able to guess what will happen, but I want you to take a look at the video to see with your own eyes how people are treated based on their outward appearance.
The Video Clip:
The clip is available online at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuxOrCoYnV0
You may not have been surprised by the video, but I certainly hope you were disappointed with what you saw. In the clip, a man who was pretending to be a handicapped business man fell down, and was repeatedly helped back up by passers-by. But another man pretending to be handicapped and homeless was often left right where he fell by the same passers-by. I’m sure that each of the people who were unknowingly captured on film might try to justify their lack of empathy, but for you and I, there is no excuse. If we follow Jesus, we must be willing to help everyone who needs it…regardless of what they look like. Let’s spend the next few minutes of our time together discussing that reality in our small groups.
Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: As we get started, let’s all take a second to share your name and whether or not you’ve ever needed help from a stranger.
- ASK SOMEONE: In the video clip, who got more help, the guy dressed up like a business man or the guy dressed up like a homeless man? Why do you think that was the case?
- ASK A FEW: What do you think the passers-by were thinking when they walked past the homeless guy without helping him?
- ASK A FEW: Why do you think the two women and the one guy who helped the homeless man took the risk of helping him?
- ASK A FEW: At the end of the clip, the producers ask us each a question that we must confront: what would you have done? So, what’s the answer?
- ASK A FEW: I know it’s a little cliché, but I want to ask the question anyway: what do you think Jesus would have done had He seen the homeless man fall down in front of Him?
- ASK A FEW: If that’s what you think Jesus would have done, then what do you think His expectation would be of us in the same situation? How do you know?
Read the following passage:
James 2:1-10 (NIV)
My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? 8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
It was a simple social experiment: dress up a guy as a business man in need and dress up another guy as a homeless man in need to see which of the two got the most help from strangers. Most of us could have rightly guessed how the story was going to end: the business man was going to get help…and the homeless man was going to get ignored.
And that’s exactly what happened.
According to James, Jesus’ little brother, that’s been happening for at least 2,000 years. In the passage we read, he tells us that it’s a sin to show favoritism to a person who’s dressed nicely over a person who’s dressed in shabby clothes. That’s right: a sin, up there with lying, and adultery, and murder.
Maybe the reason God takes favoritism so seriously is because when we show favoritism, we’ve become judges FOR some and judges AGAINST others. To put it another way: we value some people and devalue other people. That’s a harsh thing to do…especially since God said all people were created in His image, regardless of their size, the color of their skin, the clothes on their back, or the money in their bank account.
When we refuse to help someone who’s created in the image of God, we’re not just turning our backs on them; we’re also turning our backs on God and His expectations of us. That just shouldn’t happen.
So, our last question in our small groups was “who can we help or serve or care for this week that we’ve never helped or served or cared for?” I want you to give serious attention to this question. I even want you to act on the answer. Each of you can think of someone you avoid, or you devalue, or you ignore.
Just imagine what might happen if YOU were to actually do what Jesus commands us in His Word! Look at what could happen in that person’s life, in your life, and in the lives of those who witness it.
That’s a risk I hope you’re willing to take.
Close in Prayer
Written by David R Smith
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on TheSource4YM.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.