That’s what the sign said. So after I slowed to a stop, I rolled down my window and shouted at the gentleman: “I’M PRAYING FOR YOU!”
Not really. I didn’t really do that. It did say anything, though. James says something altogether different: “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (2:15-17)
The great equalizer is the moment-by-moment acknowledgment of the Holy Spirit. The moment I saw the man, having just come from a coffee shop, I wondered if I should turn around and go back to get him a cup of coffee. I had no cash on me. And please understand, I don’t normally give as I don’t usually carry cash or change, but I felt something could be done. I was willing, and I let God know this. It was a busy intersection and I was busy as well. Then a thought flashed in my mind, from God. It had that fresh realization to it: Just give him your full punch-card. Brilliant. That I could do. So I pulled around to a parking space, got out my wallet, then the card, then proceeded to go again through the intersection. I pulled over, turned on my flashers and got out. I walked up to him, arm extended. “Here, go get yourself a cup of coffee.” I know there’s that whole complex of wondering what a homeless person will do with the money you give them. Trust me, if it’s God leading you to give, and they decide to buy booze or drugs, God will see to it that it’s the most miserable high they’ve ever had. One that, hopefully with the help of others, will see them where they need to go. But it’s not your responsibility. Your responsibility is to obey out of love. It’s not your whims in any case, it’s God. God is touching someone through you. Whether it’s prayer (required), or time, or money, or just a cup of coffee.
“Every man (and woman) according as he pursposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
Notice what Paul says with reference to love in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 (verse 3) “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (emphasis mine) As an interesting aside, Paul cites a somewhat selfish motive for giving here. Or does he? He speaks of his own profit when giving, especially without charity (love). But turned around and looked at from a different perspective, is he saying that if we don’t have love when we give, we’re wasting our time? I think yes. How many times do we pull up, then pull away without looking. I’ve done it. Thinking it’s none of my business why the man or woman is there on the curb. But what does love say? Love is wise, sure. But love is doing whatever Jesus would do in that situation. And if you’re not sure, then ask Him. Be willing.
I love coffee.
And that’s about all I’ll get from the little drive-thru coffee houses in my city. A simple americano, no frills. As another aside, the “americano” is so named, because during World War II, American soldiers in Europe would water down their espressos in order to have a cup of “joe” with the consistency of the coffee back home. So good is it, that even if I have a full punch card worth up to five bucks, I still opt for the simple, unpretentious caffe americano, saving the card for whomever I feel the Holy Spirit tells me to give it to. Is this the kind of love that Paul’s referring to? Can I have agape (the Greek “love”, or “charity”, elucidated in 1 Corinthians 13) for coffee? No, I don’t think so. But if I’m grateful to God for my coffee and want others to experience the same, then throughout the exchange, the Holy Spirit will infuse the interaction and see that this person, whoever they may be, gets what they need regardless what you are or aren’t able to materially give. This is axiom.
And giving ’til it hurts? You’ll know, just make sure you don’t spill the coffee in your lap.
“As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” (2 Corinthians 6:10)
“Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee:” (Acts 3:6)