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?