“He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.” Proverbs 19:17
The limping man on the edge of the interstate finally broke my selfish heart where it needed to be broken.
His back was to me, but I could tell his clothes were tattered and stained. “Good,” I mentally noted. This man was truly poor. He wasn’t scamming the other drivers. I had a firm policy—honed after living in Atlanta where there is a large homeless population—of not giving money to those who beg. I would buy food for the person if they accepted. Or I would hand out my lunch or granola bars.
So this unfortunate beggar was not going to be the recipient of my money. Certainly not. Even though his outward appearance indicated that he had no home. And he was limping. Then he turned and I saw his face.
He had a rough, grizzled exterior as I might have expected. White hair. Blue eyes. A child of God made in God’s own image.
Someone I quickly judged and dismissed. Child of God. Poor and needy. And what was my response? To catalog the nature of his neediness and then absolve myself because, well, you see, there’s just nothing I can do. I just don’t hand out money.
Pastor Tim Keller in his book Generous Justice treats the “but won’t they use my money for alcohol or drugs?” excuse quickly and without ceremony. We are to be generous to the poor. Period. Why? When Jesus was headed for the Cross, he didn’t think of Jennifer and hang back, murmuring, “But what if she misuses my gift of eternal life? What if she makes a mess of her life with the precious gift I’ve offered?”
This thought (which I have rendered inelegantly; my apologies to Dr. Keller) struck me in the stomach. We give in response to Christ’s love that was offered freely on the Cross. I did not deserve it but yet the ultimate gift was handed to me even though it was pretty much a sure bet I was going to misuse it, disdain it or ignore it. Jesus did not withhold his love from me. Why I am so quick to withhold love from the poor using the weapons of money and indifference?
With just mere seconds before the light turned, I engaged the man and gave him a portion of my budgeted amount of “fun money” for the week. His eyes were very blue close to my car. His voice was soft. I prayed for him as I drove away. The tears would not stop coming because I knew God had arranged the moment to move a huge rock in my heart. It takes the Holy Spirit to convict and reprove us but also to show us the path toward God’s own heart.
I am in a season of figuring out how to be more generous. I heard Dr. Keller preach in a podcast about “eye-popping generosity.” I want that. I am scared of what it means and what I will have to give up. Is it okay to say I am afraid of what I might lose?
But I cling to the many, many promises in Scripture that show me gently that a life filled with this eye-popping generosity is God’s design for us. And so, like my brief friend on the side of the interstate, I take a few trembling steps forward, hands outstretched, wondering what will come next.