Was running late to work the other morning. Empty on gasoline. Stopped at QuickTrip. Filled the Jeep. Was ready to leave when a guy comes over to my car. Had a story: Low on gas, wife wouldn’t give him any money, etc. Could he have $10?
This has happened before, but it’s been awhile so caught me off guard. The first thing that came to mind was this verse, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:42) So I gave him what was in my wallet: $6. He thanked me and I drove off.
This subject of handouts came up recently between Marshal and I in our weekly Bible Study. We know that often when someone approaches us for money they probably intend to spend it supporting some habit. Like drugs or alcohol. Cynical outlook, I admit. But simply giving out money could be harmful and enabling, we reasoned.
However, Jesus’s basic teaching is clear: “Give to the one who asks.” In discussing alternatives to pure cash distribution, we decided perhaps it would be better to take their story at face value and offer to meet the need they were asking help for. For instance, if they asked for food, offer to get them food. If they asked for gasoline, buy them gasoline. And in the process, spend a few minutes with them, giving our time. Because time is perhaps the most precious thing we can give anybody.
Marshal and I also decided it would be better – at least from the standpoint of being consistent with the teachings of Jesus – to take a relational alternative when possible. Because people are important. And peoples’ deepest needs are love and acceptance, not just gasoline or a burger.
So we decided next time someone asked us for money for food we should counter offer to take them to McDonalds or such, buy some chow, and spend time hearing their story. Of course, this would be highly inconvenient.
Speaking of inconvenient, at QuickTrip yesterday I sorta forgot all this theoretical relational stuff: I was in a hurry and just forked over some dough.
Which reminds me of something else I read about recently: building margins into our lives. The point was this: if we want to be available to people, we shouldn’t be in such a big rush all the time, scheduling activities back-to-back. We need to leave breathing room for spontenaity.
If you look at the Good Samaritan in the Bible, he gave up at least one day of his time to help. Are we prepared to do the same, for a complete stranger?