It seems like it happens too often.
A man was forced to leave his home. My wife and I open our home to him, allowing him to stay in our guest bedroom for 6 months. While with us he contributed $200 per month for full rent, board, WIFI, etc. He contributed absolutely nothing else. In fact, he often invaded my office in the morning, monopolizing my time with chatter. He refused to contribute either at home or at the Church. At the end of 6 months he abruptly left, and I’ve not seen him since. People ask “Whatever happened to …?” I have no idea. He promised to be back in Church but instead he is gone like a puff of smoke. POOF!
I am at the Kroger gas pumps on January 3rd 2017. On my van are two signs that read “Look up – Jesus loves you”. A man walks up and asks “Do you believe what’s on those signs?” I tell him I do. He then tells me he had been out of work, just got a job, but needs steel toed boots if he’s going to go to work. So I put $20 in his car (he was, he said, on his last 2 dollars) and gave him $50 for boots. I invited him to Church and gave him my card after praying for him, and he promised to be in Church Sunday. About 8:30 that night I get a call from the same man. His boots will cost about another $100. So I leave home, go to the bank ATM, and head to another city to take him the money. While trying to get to him he calls me 4 times asking “Where are you?”. When I meet up with him I give him the money, he thanks me and says he’ll be at Church Sunday. Sunday comes and goes, but he doesn’t. Like a whiff of smoke he’s gone. POOF. Then about 1:30 am one morning that next week he calls again. He needs money for a plane ticket to Chicago. His daughter has been shot, and he needs to get to her. I don’t give him money because I don’t have it. POOF! He’s gone.
A month passes.
I get a call on February 3 2017 from this man’s brother. The man, I am told, tried to kill himself, and will get out of the hospital the next day. The brother found my card in his wallet, and the man will only talk to me. So I go to another city to see the man. He is going to be evicted out of his home the next day, and his car is in the shop. If he could get his car he could look for work. “What do you need?” I ask. “I need $47 to get my car back”. I knew he was in need, so I had purchased a $50 Kroger Gift card on my way to his home. I give him the $50 card and the $47 I had in my wallet, the exact amount he said he needed for his car. I took him to an apartment complex where his “mechanic” lived. He took the money to his mechanic while I waited. Then I took him home. EXACTLY as he did in January he calls me at 8:30 pm. He still owes the mechanic $120, can I give him $60 of that? So I go to my bank ATM, then drive to another city to take him the money. Once more I drive him to his mechanic’s apartment so he can pay the man, then take him back home. I get home about 9:30 pm, and try to go to sleep. The phone rings at 12:30 am – yes, just after midnight. It’s the man’s brother. The car I just finished paying for to be repaired is broken down on the highway. Will I go get the man? Will I go give him more? Will I give him more time, more money, more resources? I’m sorry, I cannot do any more. Is this for real, or just a scam to rob me? How much is enough? I tell the brother that I’m sorry, but I’ve given all that I can give.
But I feel bad about it.
Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Luke 10:30-37 (NASB) Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ 36 Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” 37 And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”
When I read this parable I don’t want to be the priest or the Levite. Too many people walk down the road, passing by on the other side. I want people to know Jesus, to see Jesus, to come to Him and be blessed. That’s what I want with all my heart. I want to be the Good Samaritan of Jesus’ parable. I’ve tried to show mercy to my neighbor. But when is enough?
The man in Christ’s story had been beaten up by the dark forces of life. The Good Samaritan took the man to a safe place. He bound his wounds with oil and wine. He told the innkeeper “take care of him. Whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you”. But Jesus,
what if the man NEVER leaves the inn?
what if he keeps on taking advantage of the situation?
what if he builds up a bill ordering room service,
costing the Samaritan hundreds of dollars?
The truth is, in Jesus’ day most people were raised to not stay on perpetual welfare.
The Apostle Paul wrote:
2 Thessalonians 3:7-12 (NASB) For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; 9 not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. 10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.
Too many in our great country have become so self focused that they are not the people of Jesus’ Good Samaritan parable but are those who will not focus on work. They are looking for the easy way out. They have made bad decisions. They do not belong to a community of faith, but perpetually call the local churches every week with welfare requests.
“The Electric Company is going to turn off my power tomorrow
if you don’t pay my bill today”.
“I have a wife and two small children, and my land lord is going to
evict us tomorrow if you don’t pay my rent”.
“My wife is bipolar manic depressive. I left the bank card with her, and she emptied our bank account. We’ll be homeless tomorrow if you don’t help.
(This one cost me $500 I didn’t have, putting it on a charge card)
I have a lady who comes by our Church at least once a month. She needs gas, food, and money. I tell her to sit through the Church service and I’ll put $20 in her gas tank after Church, and give her food from our pantry. The last time I gave her what she called “much needed gas” the tank would not hold but $16 – it was that full.
I pumped the gas myself. When is ENOUGH?
So when is enough? I don’t know, and I don’t think you know either. The liberal thinks that we should give perpetually, without end, that welfare ad nauseam is the way to go. The Bible doesn’t support that. As a Church and as Christians we have given above and beyond. At present we are collecting soup for the homeless, and have about 3000 cans gathered. We are collecting money for the local Pregnancy Support Center. We give to missionaries. Giving is good, and God loves a cheerful giver. … But we have been ripped off by many. We took up money for a struggling family only to hear them later brag that they bought the latest X-Box equipment for their kids for Christmas. Or the lady who is out of money, but smokes $5 a pack cigarettes and needs us to pay her cell phone bill. I had one lady run into my office in a bikini. She was on the way to the beach with her three kids, and needed money for rent. When I tried to tell her about Jesus she said “I don’t have time for this. I’ll try another Church”. Or the family who lost a loved one, and when our Church carried food to the family stood at the door, took the food, then slammed the door in our face. When do we say “No!” “Enough!”
So what do we do? I pray we do not become cynical. I pray that our hearts are not hardened. And I try to remind myself daily that I have taken advantage of Christ my Lord many times, yet He continues to show me mercy. I despised Him when I was lost, and let Him down as we all do now that I am saved.
I do feel better blogging this out. So I think I’ll keep giving, and ask you to do the same. Maybe we will be taken advantage of, dear Christ Followers. But one day we will inherit the world. So let’s give as we can for God’s glory, and pray for those who take advantage of us. Maybe they will see Christ in us, or maybe they will see us as just a mark. Either way I will glorify God and prayerfully give.
For Christ’s sake. Amen.