There he was standing on the side of the road with a sign in his hand. I was sitting in my air conditioned mini van, soaking in the sun while waiting at the stoplight. I started to look around. I had some water bottles in my back seat, some change in my side compartment, and a piece of gum. Not much to give. His sign said, “Out of work. Need money to feed family.”
I thought about how many times I have turned my eyes from the sight of someone begging. It is just so hard for me to see beyond the beggar’s appearance. My justifications began…
“He is just going to spend it on drugs and alcohol.”
“He probably has a car full of stuff parked around here somewhere.”
“I don’t have anything to give because I never carry cash.”
“I will just roll up my windows and lock my doors and certainly not make eye contact because who knows what kind of person he is.”
I made myself believe that I had nothing to offer and even if I did this man was not worth it. It was ugly.
Later, as I sat at my son’s lacrosse game I realized how wrong I was. I had a lot to offer that man. I could have rolled down my window and treated him as a child of God (which he was and is). I could have smiled at him, making eye contact. I could have offered a prayer up for him. I could have told him how sorry I was that I had nothing to give. Yet I didn’t do any of that. I justified my behavior instead.
Unconditional love is what we are supposed to offer everyone we meet. This day I decided to ignore that request from God. I couldn’t offer this man love without conditions or limits. I couldn’t love him as he was. I wanted to assume the worst. I wanted to turn my back on someone in need because I didn’t like the look of him. I missed the mark.
Sometimes God asks us to see beyond a person’s appearance. God asks us to see the person through God’s eyes, not our own. We judge appearance with our eyes; God judges the soul.
Money isn’t all I could have offered to this beggar. I could have offered him human kindness. I chose instead to offer up nothing.
The bible speaks very clearly about the treatment of the poor. In the book of Luke is the story of Lazarus (a man covered in sores and very poor). Read below…
There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.
Jesus is clear here. He points out that in heaven there is no rich or poor, so it is imperative that we share what we have here on earth – because we can’t take it with us. It is necessary that we treat each other equally (or even better) than we want to be treated. It is a requirement that we practice unconditional love.
I have a lot of work to do in this area – obviously by my story above. I need to recognize and hear the cry of the poor by extending my prayers, my money and my love to all.