I don’t know about your town, but around here we have a lot of people who stand at intersections with cardboard signs that read something like, “anything helps” “disabled vet, can’t find work” “Ninjas killed my family, need money for kung-fu lessons” and “I bet you can hit me with a quarter.” Sometimes they have a little dog there with them. Not sure why animal control doesn’t do something about that… I’ve thought about taking my kids down there to see how much we could get in an afternoon. My sign would read: “Lost my job. 4 kids. Can’t afford new iPhone.”
Have you ever felt guilt about not giving them money? Let me set your mind at ease, many of them actually work for someone who takes a cut of what they get. So, when you give them money, you’re supporting a pimp or something. I don’t actually know that for sure, but that’s what I’ve heard. So, you’re supposed to give them food right?
A Waste of Good Fries
Well, one time in college, while I was working at a place that sold sheepskin seat covers (that’ll be a story for another day) I encountered this one guy every day. Eventually the guilt compelled me to respond. So I gave the guy my french fries. He seemed thankful at the time. And I felt better about myself. I did my good deed for the day, I’m sure I’d be able to sleep better tonight. I might be a little hungry after practice, but it’ll be worth it.
Well, later that same day, my new friend – the source of my new found Mother Teresa status – walked by my store. He unfolded a wad of cash about the size of the su mmer sausage you get at Christmas time. And he wasn’t alone. He had a lady friend with him. Noticing this, I jumped up to see where he was going. To my surprise he entered the Bi-ways cafe that was right next to my store. (Also another story for another day.)
Now, I had eaten at that restaurant a grand total of one time. I had talked to their owner a time or two, so I felt obliged to at least try it. So I did, but I just couldn’t afford to spend $12-15 on a burger, plus sides, plus drinks. But Mr. “Wad of cash the size of a Costco can of green beans” could. So, needless to say, I felt duped. I didn’t have much money as a college student. And my french fries only served as this guys appetizer to a $50+ escapade at the Bi-ways cafe.
It’s encounters like this one that have trained us not to be the generous kind of people we ought to be. Just because there are those who take advantage of us and the “system” doesn’t mean we have an excuse to be selfish. Even though we may have wasted fries doesn’t mean we can’t find someone who would appreciate them. Take a look at today’s Proverb:
27 Do not withhold good from those who need it,
when you have the ability to help.
28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go! Return tomorrow
and I will give it,” when you have it with you at the time.
29 Do not plot evil against your neighbor
when he dwells by you unsuspectingly.
30 Do not accuse anyone without legitimate cause,
if he has not treated you wrongly.
31 Do not envy a violent man,
and do not choose to imitate any of his ways;
32 for one who goes astray is an abomination to the Lord,
but he reveals his intimate counsel to the upright.
While it may be unwise to throw away money and french fries to someone who clearly doesn’t need it, we do have a responsibility to help those who need it. We can’t let our current predisposition that assumes the worst to cloud our God-given responsibility to be generous. There are plenty of people you know who need help, and you also have the ability to help them. You may not be able to meet all their needs, but you can meet one of them. Doing good doesn’t just mean money, it can be but doesn’t have to be. It can mean lending a helping hand to a widow or a single mother, baking a meal for a family with a newborn, fixing a computer or a thousand other things.
And if someone comes to you and you can help, don’t say “come again soon.” It’s embarrassing for them and they probably won’t come back. Their memory of you will be that you didn’t help when they needed it the most.
The Jerk Vs. The Generous
The rest of the passage could be summarized with, don’t be a jerk. You know jerks and have seen their ways, don’t be one. Jerks plot evil, jerks accuse the innocent, jerks are violent and an abomination. I have known jerks. They can be real smooth talkers and woo you in with their confidence. But trust me, you don’t want to be like them.
Instead, be upright. Why? The Lord reveals his intimate counsel to them. Don’t try to be like the jerks who only know how to take advantage of the poor to make themselves richer. Be generous like the Lord and you will learn his ways. And trust me, the ways of the jerk do not compare.