Did you ever have one of those days when you doubt your Christianity? You think you’re doing the right thing and then somebody says something, questions you, challenges you, and God tells you to think about it. I really dislike those days. They want silver and gold, and you just don’t have any left to give.
The other day was like that for me.
Periodically people show up at the door wanting something, and regardless of what they say they want, it’s usually money. Just about the time I was leaving the church for the day, (I’d already said goodbye to the custodian) someone knocked on the door. “I just need a minute”, I let him know that I was leaving, which direction I was heading, and why; but that I would take the risk of being late, and talk with him for a few minutes. He started out with all the reasons why he wasn’t like everyone else who was asking for help, and after I explained what we could do for him, he let me know that our help wouldn’t be enough and proceeded to tell me what he expected me, as a Christian, to do for him. For the record, it involved giving him a ride in the opposite direction of where I had already told him I was going, and by the way the bible said I was supposed to give him the money that he wanted.
I explained once again that the church benevolence program includes several things, but that we don’t hand out cash. Finally he decided that he wasn’t going to get what he wanted, and left calling me everything but Christian.
He walked off, and I got in the car to go pick up my child from school. The whole time I was driving south, my stomach was churning: what would Jesus have done? Should I have given him the ride and made my son wait, without knowing why he was waiting? Should I have emptied my wallet even though our church and most others in the area have decided that handing out cash is not always the best way to help people? Was I assuming things about him that weren’t true, was he really all that different from the other people that have come to our church asking for a handout? Am I really not a Christian like he declared?
The dilemma comes not so much because I doubt that I’m a Christian, but because I don’t always know how to discern who really has a need, and what that need is. Jesus told the rich young man to sell everything and give to the poor, but Peter and John met a beggar, and when he approached them Peter said “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6). So there is are precedents for not handing out money. Paul wrote in one of his letters “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” (2 Thess 3:10). But with the job market as bad as it is, is there a difference between ‘will not work’ and ‘really can’t find work’.
As much as I would like to be the perfect Christian, there are times when I wonder if I’m following as closely as I should be. And quite frequently people see that button and know how to punch it.
Sometimes I do give people a ride, and we do contribute to certain charities; when there is a verified need, out comes the wallet. So my question for you is how do you decide when you can/should say ‘yes’, and when to say ‘no’, and then does saying ‘no’ make you feel guilty?
I guess my concern is that I don’t become jaded and miss the true opportunities; I’d rather get taken once or twice and not pass on those times when there really is an opportunity to make a difference, than miss out on real opportunities to help because nobody’s story sounds convincing enough.
Silver or gold I may not have, but I can pray for those in need (want) and share the gospel with them. Sometimes that may have to be enough because I don’t have the resources to hand money to everyone who comes along asking.