Ok, I am no saint – at least not by the definition of social convention. I am no hero, I am nothing special, and I definitely cannot place myself above anyone else. Who am I to judge anyone’s intentions or ability? There is a story in the Bible where Jesus and his crew are watching as people are giving their gifts, and while the wealthy religious types were tossing in portions of their excess which were more than most people’s yearly income, a woman catches Jesus’ eye. She gives two mites… the last two mites she has. Having been around the world, I have seen this in action – people valuing their relationship and worship of God (or gods, as it were) more than the physical things we call money.
What I saw today though has me bugged, cuz I have to ask the question: “really?” Here’s the situation. There’s a homeless guy near my house. I’ve seen him for a while, and had the opportunity to talk to him this weekend. We sat, talked, learned about his life, prayed together and went our separate ways. I knew I would see him again, only because of the normal place he hangs out – not an issue. Anyway, today I was getting some clothes ready to donate to the Salvation Army, and thought, since he is about the same size as me, he might be able to use some. Sure enough, when I went out, he was in his normal spot, so I stopped the car and went up to talk to him. We had a pretty good conversation, and before I even mentioned the clothes, he said that what he was wearing was all he had to wear. I asked him if he was interested, and he said yes.
Just then a car pulled up and from the corner of my eye, I could see that the person was going to give him something… cool! I love it when community gets involved, people helping people, etc. I looked over to see what was being given, and it was 1) a christian tract, and 2) a quarter. Yes, one quarter… I’ll let your emotions run with that for a second…
The person received it gracefully, even saying “now I have something else to read”. The person giving it never heard the man though, because as fast as the giving happened, the window was rolled up, and the giver was waiting for the light to change… waiting, but steadily looking at the man through the closed window.
Like I said… I am no saint. Maybe that was all the person had on them. Just because my gift was larger, doesn’t make it any better. But something of this just smacked of being so wrong… Maybe the giver felt like he was guilted into giving something… after all, he was stopped right at the light where the man was (and I gotta admit, I’ve been there, where I am in the car, two feet away from the person in need, praying that the light turns quickly).
I have been revamping the entire Kidstuph site, and with this re-reading many of my old sermons to set them up in series. One of the series is entitled Preparing for Harvest. In one of the messages it talks about leaving some of the harvest for the less fortunate to get themselves, because it was not about just handing them something, emphasizing the fact that they have nothing… it was about being community together, and helping the less fortunate to respect themselves. The key scripture is Deuteronomy 24:19:
When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
I wonder what that man was thinking as he gave the quarter and tract. I wonder if he could see himself in the homeless man, and how he would react had someone presented him with that. And, of course, I wonder if I am doing enough.
I am glad that God doesn’t guilt me into giving. My job is to listen for him and to do what he says, so when he moves I move… otherwise I would be more broke than I am, and a whole lot more guilty. I pray that the man wasn’t giving out of guilt, or religious responsibility, or some sort of “I have and you don’t”… the fact that the window went up to avoid any further contact tells me different (the light didn’t change for quite a while).
I think we all can do a better job of loving our neighbor… but first we actually have to regard them as our neighbor…
There are a lot of social experiments out there documenting how we react to the less fortunate. The tagline of this one is so true: it is not how much we give, but how much love we put into the giving.