I finished my lunch, and paid for it. After the tip for the waitress, I paid ten dollars total. They swiped my debit card, gave me my receipt, and told me to have a good day. A sentiment which I returned.
When I walked out of the restaurant, there was a beggar woman sitting out front. She was missing an eye, and looked quite frail. A hospital band around her wrist denoted that she had probably just been released. She asked me not for money, but to buy her a meal. A taco in fact. I looked her square in the eye and told her I didn’t have any money.
A few steps later, I was in my car, already feeling guilty about the lie which I had spoken so boldly. Sure I didn’t have any cash on me, but that was a technicality. I had sufficient funds in my bank account to pay for this woman to fill her stomach. My keys had already found their way into the ignition, but I didn’t turn them. For a few moments, I had a crisis of conscience. I was busy after all, in a hurry to spend my Sunday doing nothing in particular. What an inconvenience this woman was to me.
Yet all the more, I heard the still voice in the back of my head, “When you do it unto the least of these, you do it unto me.”.
She wasn’t asking for money which could be used for all sorts of evils. She was asking for a basic human need to be met. She was asking for her hunger to be satiated. How could I have denied her? Yet the deed was already done, I had already turned her away. How would it look if I waltzed back over to where she was and granted her request? What a jerk I would look like!
Who was I trying to impress? Certainly not her. She was hungry, and she just wanted some food. She didn’t care about my pride, that wasn’t even on her radar. She was worried about starving to death. And if I drove off, forget looking like a jerk, I would be committing an evil deed. To drive away from her would be a sin. I would be denying the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He who identifies with the poorest of the poor, and the afflicted and oppressed. Damn my pride and hypocrisy, Jesus Himself was asking me for a meal.
I got out of my car, and went into the gas station next door. After withdrawing some cash, and breaking a twenty, I went back to where the beggar woman sat. I pulled the ten dollar bill out of my pocket, handed it to her, and told her to get her some food.
“God bless you!”
I walked away, too ashamed for any reply. Knowing how unworthy I was of such words. And after I got in my car, and closed the door, I looked up into the heavens and got level with God: “You suck!”
He does suck sometimes. Because He calls us out of our convenience and comfort. And I’m sure there are a lot of things I could have done differently to make a better impact as one who claims to be a Christian, on this woman’s life. But I didn’t. I drove off, feeling guilt and shame. As I should. Who do I serve, God or Mammon?
In this instance, I’d like to believe that I served God. Although I don’t always make the right decision. None of us do. But the glaring temptation to deny Christ as beggar was almost too powerful to resist. Yet as I write these words down finally at the end of today, I am reminded of a parable.
A father asked his two sons to go tend to the vineyard. The first son vehemently objected, and refused to do his father’s will. The second son told his father that he would indeed go, and tend to the vineyard. However the second son never went, but the first son changed his mind, and did as his father had asked. Which one truly did his father’s will?