As I drove past the Wal-Mart parking lot, I saw a man holding a sign. I’m positive I’d never seen him before but he looked strangely familiar. My eyes connected with his, then drifted down to his bill-board:
Need Work – Need Food
The letters were meticulously scripted, artistically placed on the inside of an old cereal box and written with a purple crayon.
My car kept moving but my mind was stuck on the plight of this stranger. I was torn between the different philosophies of two beloved people - my normally kind and caring husband who never gives money to beggars, and my girlfriend who cannot pass by the homeless without handing them at least a couple of dollars. I felt bad as I drove past.
Someone did a study a few years back and found out that a good number of people who stand on street corners with signs such as: will work for food, are really not in need at all. In fact, they are doing quite well due to the generosity of people like my friend. But there are the others who truly need help. They are the down- and-outers with no money, no food, no gas and no place to turn.
In Luke, we learn about a man who had been robbed, beaten, thrown into a ditch and left for dead. The priest passed him by, the Levite passed him by…but the Samaritan stopped and helped him – at great cost to himself. Jesus commended the foreigner and advised the Pharisees to be like him.
In Mathew 19, Jesus told the rich man to sell all of his possessions and give them to the poor, and then he could follow Him. But the rich man loved his money more than he loved Jesus.
Do I have the right not to help? The good thing to do, the right thing to do is to go back and encourage that man. If this guy is a con-artist, God will deal with him. But according to His Word, my job is to help him out, not to judge him or his circumstances.
The Proverbs are filled with godly wisdom about helping the poor, the deserving and the unfortunate. Proverbs 19:17 says: If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD—and he will repay you! Proverbs 25:21 says: If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink.
Then…why do I ignore them?
Again the Proverbs give wise counsel about such things as hard work, common sense, laziness, wickedness, foolishness and immorality.
Proverbs 25:26 says: If the godly give in to the wicked, it’s like polluting a fountain or muddying a spring.
People in need are easy to overlook because they are easy to condemn. Who crowned me Queen? Who elected you Judge?
We are all familiar with the passage in Mathew 25 where Jesus commends the righteous with these famous words: 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' (vs. 40)
I don’t usually give much thought to these people who are looking for help – but this Wal-Mart guy got my attention. Because I am a believer I should see people in a different light – I should see them through God’s eyes and not my own. After some consideration, I decided to go back and talk to the man to find out what he really needed. Maybe I could help him after all.
I turned around and headed back with joyful anticipation. I focused ahead to the spot where the man had been standing, but he was gone. I drove down each row inspecting every vehicle. There in row D I saw him – with an elderly couple from my church. They had a grocery cart piled high with diapers, laundry soap and lots of food. They were loading it into and old, worn out pick-up. The man’s wife and two toddlers observed wide-eyed from inside.
Then I remembered this verse: 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." Matthew 25:45-46
*All verses from the New Living Translation
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