Love Grows Cold

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Leo Tolstoy, the great Russian writer, tells of the time he was walking down the street and passed a beggar.  Tolstoy reached into his pocket to give the beggar some money, but his pocket was empty.  Tolstoy turned to the man and said, “I’m sorry, my brother, but I have nothing to give.”

The beggar brightened and said, “You have given me more than I asked for–you have called me brother.”

To the loved, a word of affection is a morsel, but to the love-starved, a word of affection can be a feast.
~Max Lucado, He Still Moves Stones

I went shopping the other evening and couldn’t get a handicapped spot, so I had to park further out on the lot.  As soon as I started walking toward the store, a soft-spoken woman approached.  She had a look of fear on her face and said she was living in her car, trying to get away from an abusive husband.  Did I have any money I could give?  I honestly answered I didn’t and went on in to shop.  But I could not get her out of my mind.  She appeared to be very scared.  The thought crossed my mind that it could be a scam, but then I wondered if she would be abused if she didn’t bring money back.  It truly disturbed me.  I felt at a loss to help someone who honestly appeared to be in  frightful need.  I silently asked for God to let me know if I should do something.  Almost as a fleece, I got extra cash and prayed, “If she’s for real, please let her still be there.  Let me be faithful to You.  Let me show her Your love.”

Many have become leery of helping others, of seeing the hurting, of ministering to those in desperate need.  I catch myself wondering  when I drive by a homeless man on the corner if he’s for real.  Or is it a scam and he really takes home tens of thousands a year by “appearing” needy?  And I know I’m not alone in my feelings — I hear those thoughts from many people.  I’ve seen the “news” reports on TV.  What are we to believe?

What’s going on?  Why have we become so cynical about helping those in need — those in desperate need?  Sure, we’ll give to those we “know” but what about the person we don’t know?  What about the one who is hurting and doesn’t know what else to do…who finally asks for help…but we’re not sure if they’re ‘worthy’ ?  Or, possibly, we just don’t like the way they look…???

I wonder if these feelings are a sign of the times?

“You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved…” ~Matthew 24:10-13 (NLT)

Jesus told us to love, tangibly, anyone we see in need:

“I was hungry and you gave me no meal, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was homeless and you gave me no bed, I was shivering and you gave me no clothes, sick and in prison, and you never visited.  Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’  He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me–you failed to do it to me.’ “ ~Matthew 25:42-45 (MSG)

Tolstoy went for his money, but found none.  He explained why he couldn’t give, and in the explanation the beggar had a feast.   Words of affection are a feast for the love-starved.

The lady was still in the parking lot when I left the store.  I did have money and made a beeline for her, feeling sure God had kept her there for me to help.  As we talked, I shared with her where to find more help and then I walked sadly away, knowing I didn’t have a bed to offer.  On the way home I became angry.  I wanted so badly to be the person who had plenty to give…who had energy to expend…who had beds to fill…but…that’s not where I am…at this point in time…

Many would say I did a foolish thing, and I suppose I may have…
but I really don’t want to analyze it too much.
I suppose I could give a word of affection…that might be good…you think?

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12 responses »

  1. I never know if the one I decide to assist is the real thing or the one I walk by is a scam. I just don’t know.

    One thing I do know, if I were to stop and assist every desperate person I see in Washington, DC, I would miss a lot of work or a lot of home and I would have no money left for bread for my home.

    Many would say Jesus did a foolish thing — the desperate are spending his gift of grace on trivial sins after all.

  2. I think that it is better that you helped. We are commanded to love others more than our selves.. that is very hard to do. Each time we sacrifice for the benefit of others, if they are in true need or not, the glory of God is being shown. Always do what you have been commanded and I see no way that you won’t be blessed because of it. I know that it is frustrating to not have a lot to give, but even the words mean the world, just a kind smile can change the whole tone.. You did a good thing.

  3. If everyone acted with the same kindness as you did the world would be a better place.

    I never give money to strangers, probably because I have spent so much time in NYC, where some people begging make more money than me. There are however some luxuries I could easy live without, and that money would be put to better use by those who need it.

    American culture has always had a negative view of begging, going back to our Puritan ancestors. Begging is an accepted tradition in many Asian countries, such as India.

    My understanding is that a Christian is called to listen to their heart, the indwelling Holy Spirit. The kindness with which you acted is Christianity at its best.

  4. This is a tough one Michelle. But as I was thinking about it I realised I know some people who are starving for love. And if we have love and a kind word to give, how dare we not, it means the world to them (I was convicted). Similarly I suppose if someone is starving for food and we have some to give, how dare we not. But it reminded me of the scripture in James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? And I guess in that sense and from personal experience I have learnt that though we should always have a kind word for everyone, those who want money are not satisfied by a kind word, I suppose just the same way as those who are starving for kindness and love would not be satisfied by money or food. It is difficult, I never know when to give money because it does also seem that there are so many needy people that if I have given everything I own, I would not even have helped one. But love is sort of like a bottomless pit isn’t it?:)

    Is that your drawing on your banner? I love it.

  5. I’m so thankful for His foolishness, Ric. What’s the scripture?

    “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

    Amen, Heather! “Each time we sacrifice for the benefit of others, if they are in true need or not, the glory of God is being shown.” I hadn’t really thought about the outcome. God looks at the motivation of both parties, doesn’t He? It’s not so much that He considers it foolish, as the world might, but that He sees the heart of the giver. I don’t know if I did a “good” thing, with so much angst over it: God loves a cheerful giver…??? If it was good, it was definitely God; I know that nothing good dwells in me, except Him. I suppose I’ll know if it was a worthy/worthless work at the Bema Seat. 😉

    Hey, Ed! The first time I remember seeing a beggar (actually, many beggars), I was walking across the border from El Paso to Juarez. I think I was ten…not really sure…but it was a life-changing moment. I didn’t realize people didn’t have enough, or that some children in the world needed to “work” for the family by begging. I couldn’t get the picture out of my head…my daily concern was wondering what wonderful dinner my mom would put before us that night after playing hard all day…and some children in the world were having to beg for their next meal. I understand not liking it…it’s a sure sign of the injustice of the world’s systems.

    Hi, Rain! “…from personal experience I have learnt that though we should always have a kind word for everyone, those who want money are not satisfied by a kind word, I suppose just the same way as those who are starving for kindness and love would not be satisfied by money or food.” Yes. I suppose the only answer is to do what we hear the Lord saying in the moment and keep an open heart to all. Love God, love one another. Can’t get more simple than that, as far as a command goes, and yet it’s the hardest of all when we’d rather build walls of self-protection than die to our own wants, you know? (And yes, that’s one of my drawings…thank you. 🙂 )

  6. i just found you on alece’s blog…

    my husband and i talk about this a lot. and i think about it even more. in our conversations, we came back to the fact that our God is a generous God. and we want to be like him, so that includes us being generous. and not rationalizing with phrases like “they might just use it buy drugs/alcohol/etc.” yes, we purchase food when someone’s asking for food, and we try to be wise. but not judgmental. i personally believe that if God calls me to give, i should obey. that “if” is probably the wrong word, because he always calls me to give! and that thought comes to my mind all the time…so it’s not just on some occasions. aaaanyway. i’m rambling.

    we recently heard shane claiborne speak in a class (he skyped with a class here at ozark christian college) and the phrase that stuck with me was “i don’t think that when we get to heaven God’s gonna say ‘you gave TOO MUCH money to crack addicts'” so true.

    here’s the link to the interview:
    [audio src="http://www.shanejwood.com/images/stories/audio/christianlife/cl23-shaneclaiborne.mp3" /]
    and shane claiborne’s website:
    http://www.thesimpleway.org/

    blessings, sister!

  7. I like your rambling, Tara, and welcome!

    I agree. God is not going to get on to us for giving too much. What a thought! We serve a generous God. One who gives and gives and gives…we can’t outgive God…amen.

    I’ll check out those links, thanks! 🙂

  8. Hey Sis 🙂 It’s been a while but I’m so glad I came across this post today!

    The reality is we can never really know whether or not someone is being genuine but that should not be the determining factor of whether or not we should give when the Spirit is leading us to. It’s kind of like tithing. We can never know if the Church we are tithing to is using it according to God’s Will but we are instructed to give the first fruits of our labor to the Lord.

    Not sure if I’m articulating myself well. Like Brotha Ric I also believe that it is impossible to give to every single person in need; we are to be good stewards over what God has given us and use wisdom but I do believe that when we are approached by someone asking for help and we have it-we are blessed to be a blessing.

    An example is that two years ago this lady approached me at a gas station. She was homeless; had no gas to get to her parent’s house; and had not ate in days. It occured to me that she may not be telling the entire truth before I did it but I put $10 in her tank, bought her some food from the gas station and a calling card so she could call her parents. And even after I wondered but knew the prompting of the HS and so had peace with doing it.

    The very next day I got a refund check from my insurance company (totally unexpected) in the exact same amount that I spent on her. How odd, how God, huh? To me that was a confirmation from God; I was obedient regardless of what I may or may not have thought and He blessed me for it.

    Love you! XO

  9. Michelle, by your simple act of mercy (*God Himself* was, and is, shining BRIGHTLY through you) and through your kindness (His hand was extended through *your* hand), JESUS’ own heart was delighted, with the Holy Spirit filling you with great joy & peace over your “listening” to/for God! YES!!!

    “What’s going on? Why have we become so cynical about helping those in need — those in desperate need?”

    Well, here’s the deal (no surprise, unfortunately):
    Our hearts have grown coffin-cold ~ individually AND collectively. We have become cynical. We have so rarely “heard” God “nudge” us to act as His messenger ~ AND obeyed that “nudge ~ that He is speaking to some of us less, and less, and…l..e…s…..s…….

    I personally know of people who have been out of work, their unemployment benefits ended, and… the *Christian* people who know them have simply shrugged(!) ~ which is OUTRAGEOUS!!!~ and said, “Well, I’m sure they’ll probably be getting *another* unemployment extension…” [note the judgmental attitude, masked as conservatism…] How such words must absolutely CRUSH God’s great, tender heart, filled with compassion for those who are in such a situation!

    Yes! God has called us to be wise, good stewards of His resources. Yes! We can’t give away the “goose that lays the golden egg” (i.e., a majority of the earnings needed for sustenance – a mortgage, food, utilities). Nevertheless, we can still give *something*, unless, in fact, we ourselves are the ones in that situation. In such a condition, then, we are the ones desperately crying out for God to “Please, God, SHOUT into the ears of the ‘deaf’ believers all around me!!! And – if THEY don’t, won’t, CAN’T hear Your voice, then, Sweet Jesus, open the ears & hearts of the *pagans* who WILL show pity, and mercy —-.”

    And you know what? Our beloved Papa does *indeed* answer such cries of His dear children.

    THANKS for your heart, Michelle, and THANKS for bringing this matter to front-and-center attention. God is no holy “slot-machine”, but He definitely DOES see & know His kids who are listening for His voice — & doing as He asks (no matter how “risky” it seems to us…).

    Love you! — gracie;-)

  10. Absolutely not. You gave someone in need some of your resources, time, and prayer. It could make a world of a difference.

  11. If you could smell her fear, she was telling the truth. Had you sensed the conquest of a shark trawling pawn, she would have been lying.

    All things considered, though, I think you bring up a very serious point with which the church can be lax.

    “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet, DON’T INVITE YOUR FRIENDS, BROTHERS, RELATIVES, AND RICH NEIGHBORS. For they will invite you back, AND THAT WILL BE YOUR ONLY REWARD. Instead, INVITE THE POOR, THE CRIPPLED, THE LAME, AND THE BLIND. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you” (Luke 14:12-14).

    I have so seldom seen that Truth taught. But it is also obvious to me that we cannot give here to get There; our hearts and motives must be pure, much like Jesus fed thousands of people who just wanted to eat and couldn’t care less about what He was saying. Even so, He fed them.

    And I think the greatest danger in disobeying God is that we only give to those we know, those we consider friends or relatives, those who can pay us back — either with public applause or a summer barbeque or whatever. But angels sing when we help strangers. Because, like Jesus said, “If you love those who only love you, what good is that? Even pagans do that.”

    When we don’t help those who are hurting, we hurt those who are hurting.

    I don’t quite think I understood that until fairly recently…

    (Pardon the capitals; I am typing with my thumbs.)

  12. “we can never really know whether or not someone is being genuine but that should not be the determining factor of whether or not we should give when the Spirit is leading”

    Amen, Gch! I wonder if the test of our faithfulness is in the listening and immediate obedience. I want to stay sensitive to His Spirit and not allow my “second guessing” to confuse the issue. What a wonderful thing you did for the lady at the gas station. God bless you, Sweet Girl!

    I don’t want to be among the ones who can’t feel His nudge, Gracie, yet, I’m afraid I don’t always respond as quickly as He would like. It’s that “risky business” (not to be confused with the Tom Cruise movie) of the Holy Spirit where I desire to be employed. I pray He will continue to whisper, nudge, zing…whatever form He chooses…to make clear to me what He desires from me. Even if I “appear” foolish to the world.

    Thanks, Slamdunk! I sure hope it made a difference in her life.

    Don’t invite those who can repay…but the desperately needy…the hurting. Amen, Nor. Wow, talk about a “risky business” again… Jesus did not call us to be comfortable, but to be ready for people to totally misunderstand. To only love those who will love us in return…where’s the sacrifice in that?
    Good thoughts from our Savior…thank you for the reminder.

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