Part IX of our series on Doing Good
We discussed in our last post how sometimes, the best gift we can give to our enemies is the one that ties us to them long-term. That way, we become more concerned about their welfare.
Here’s a related story that presents an important lesson for us:
In August 2010, a homeless man came up to a woman in New York City. He asked her for money so that he could buy water and cigarettes. She loaned him her American Express Platinum card (story here).
Do you think she was more interested in the welfare of this homeless man during the time he had her credit card? Of course!
When I was in high school, I worked for a radio station and Carl W. was my boss. Down the street lived Carl C., a high school dropout and troublemaker.
One day Carl C. called and asked if he could borrow my father’s power tools. I told him I would ask my dad. So I said, “Dad, Carl wants to borrow your power tools.”My dad assumed I meant Carl W. So he said, “Of course! Just give me half an hour to polish them up.”
Imagine my father’s surprise when Carl C. showed up and carried away all of his power tools! Do you think my father became more concerned about Carl C.’s welfare once Carl C. had all of his tools? Of course!
But it is important to remember that we are not commanded to simply give everyone whatever it is that they are asking for.
When a homeless man asks for money for cigarettes, for example, Jesus does not tell us we should give the homeless man what he asks for. Look at Acts 3:1-10 and notice how physical this encounter is. Keep track of the words that relate to the five senses:
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.
When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
In these Scriptures, what do you think happens when we give something different than what is asked for?
The “Golden Rule” (in Luke 6:31) says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” But Jesus does not say this to worldly people. He says this to people who are following him. People who want to receive God’s mercy.
And we don’t want money or cigarettes. We want to receive God’s love mirrored into the world, and he intends that to be a physical manifestation—that’s why he created us. So what we pass on to other people is not what they are asking for…not our love…and not even our love offered in God’s name. Instead, we give them God’s love made physical—what he has given to us—and we offer that to them in God’s name.
Sometimes they choose to reject that. Sometimes they use that love against us.
Have you ever given something different than what was asked for in order to be a physical manifestation of God’s love? What was it? How was it received?