So I was up early this morning, ok actually i never went to sleep, but anyway. I’m driving to Panera for some coffee and study time and its freezing, not literally, but still, pretty darn cold. My car doesnt have a heater so I have about three jackets on, but its still cold. my hands are frozen, my face is numb, its COLD. I wasnt complaining, more like just making a joke about it, but I tweeted ‘Car with no heater=frozen beck!” Harmless right?
About five minutes later I pass this homeless lady (I’m assuming homeless) walking down the road with a jacket on and a backpack. You know where this is going. I’m thinking to myself how can I even jokingly complain about not having heater in my car when there are people out here today who are having to walk in this cold windy weather? So that was humbling, put me in my place.
I keep driving, and thinking. And I start thinking about our homeless project at Living Hope. Our Gospel Community group goes downtown every other Sunday and passes out sand whiches that we make that morning. Last week the whole church got together and collected blankets and stuff and went down and passed it out. It was really great, we helped a lot of people.
But is that enough?
I was kind of justifying my conscience (which was screaming at this point). I mean, our group just pitches in some money and buys the food, works hard to make the sandwhiches, gives of our time to feed these people, etc. We’re doing more than a lot of people. We’re doing our part.
So while i’m driving to Panera to spend $8 on breakfast and a hot cup of coffee, its ok for me to feel sympathy for that homeless lady, but its also ok for me to not let it bother me too much, because I’m doing my part to help the homeless in my area. Agreed?
I wish. I wish I stopped there. I wish i had that ‘brain off’ button to push real fast. But I didnt. It was one of those moments where I tried everything within my power to drown out my conscience, to hush the thoughts that were in my mind. It’s like I knew they were in there but as long as i didnt acknowledge them I wasnt really responsible.
But I am.
This is what came to mind. First of all Isaiah 58:7. There’s too much to share here but short story- The israelites were doing all these things to please God- fasting, praying, etc etc but God wasnt pleased because they were missing it. God basically says in the preceding verses, ‘is this what Im asking of you? is that what i see as acceptable? and then in verse seven he says “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover him…?”
Ok, so that makes sense. We all know God wants us to care for the homeless and take care of the poor. Thats why we give our time and feed the homeless, that’s why we give our money to buy blankets and food and all this stuff. That’s why we donate to the Red Cross, to 15th Place, Salvation Army etc etc etc.
But is that enough?
Second thing that came to my mind. Luke 3:10-11 John the Baptist is preaching to the people: “And the crowds asked him, ‘What then shall we do? and he answered them, ‘Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.'”
But that’s what we’re already doing right? we have extra money so we’re making a sacrifice and giving food and blankets and jackets to those that dont have any. Correct. and that’s commendable. But what hit me, sitting here in Panera, is that I think we here in America, here in Mobile, tend to put a little ‘Western spin’ on this verse like we do with so many others.
Instead of reading this as ‘whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none’ aka keep one tunic and give the rest away, we read it as ‘give one tunic away’ aka as long as you give something, its ok to keep the rest.
Is this correct?
I think we miss the principle behind the words. It’s not about ‘how much are we required to give, how much do we need to do so God will be happy, so we will have fulfilled our moral obligation’ etc etc etc.
And i don’t have scripture to back all this up, so please, jump in here, share your opinions, beliefs and what has caused you to come to that conclusion. feel free to tell me I’m wrong (please, tell me I’m wrong, it be so much easier that way) but I think we’re in the wrong. Let me start with myself. I think i’m in the wrong. i think my thinking is scewed, even though i have the best of intentions, I think I have a long way to go, I think I get a lot of things, but I think I’m still missing it a little bit.
If there are homeless, needy, freezing, hungry, suffering people in our city what is our obligation? As the church that is our obligation is it not? Not the city council, not the good-hearted moral people that want to give extra change to the bell ringers, not the welfare programs or the food closets. That is OUR obligation. Is it not?
If there is a homeless woman walking down the street in freezing weather and I am in Panera drinking coffee, something is wrong. Is it not?
If I’m driving around town buying Christmas presents for my family and friends while there are people downtown homeless and cold and the only thing standing in their way of being warm is me spending $5 on a blanket…..that is a problem. Is it not?
But i’ve already given a ‘tunic’. I’ve already given money, time, etc. And besides, I dont have a ton of extra stuff. i mean, I have four nice jackets, but I need them. One is just the routine, where anywhere jacket. One is for nicer occasions like going out to dinner or church or something, and I need one brown one and one black depending on what I’m wearing. And of course I need one for really cold weather, like when I go to visit my pals in Kentucky. I mean, I dont really have any extra stuff. I dont spend that much money on myself.
Does it say ‘give one tunic’ or does it say ‘if you have one tunic, share the rest’…
But that’s too extreme. We can only do so much. God wants us to take care of ourselves too. God wants us to be happy and enjoy life and the things he has blessed us with. We cant sacrifice buying our family presents just to buy extra blankets for the homeless. Plus, we’ve already made sacrifices, we’ve already given money. We’ve done our part.
We’ve done our part.