It was Saturday morning, just before my next appointment.
The person staring at me was unknown to me, but my eyes were drawn to the plastic bag standing next to him on the ground. The long-neck beer bottles stood proudly, cheerfully peeking out in the usual dark brown glass and gold-coloured tops.
“I was wondering if you could help me with a few bucks to get to the next town.”
Is this man out of his mind!
“I think you are just taking a chance here. How could you ask me for money if you have just bought alcohol—and that this time of the morning! No sorry, I certainly can’t help you” I replied.
He tried again. “I did not plan to drink it now or before I get home. It is just that I don’t have anything to get home. Help me!”
I still thought it was a joke and sent him on his way.
The audacity to ask for a handout while openly admitting spending his money foolishly.
I happens all the time at the door of a manse. I can write books about the reasons, the excuses, the abuses, the impudence, and the arrogance of most of these visitors to our door —and also about the tragic circumstances of some people who found themselves in predicaments beyond their control. Members representing the last group are usually far more bashful and heaps less arrogant.
But it’s the arrogance that really gets you. What does he think of me! Is there any pride left in people? I’d be bringing shame on my name to brazenly knock on a door to ask for a handout, knowing that I really don’t have a case, just abusing the mercy of others.
What has humankind come to!
Yes, what has humankind come to! But…
“Count your blessings one by one” the old hymn tells us.
We breath air, drink water, eat food, are blessed with so many things. We have cars, televisions, radio’s, computers, and much, much more. These things we receive from God. We have gifts, time talents. And yet…
There are these verses in Ezekiel:
You took some of your garments to make gaudy high places, where you carried on your prostitution. Such things should not happen, nor should they ever occur. You also took the fine jewelry I gave you, the jewelry made of my gold and silver, and you made for yourself male idols and engaged in prostitution with them. And you took your embroidered clothes to put on them, and you offered my oil and incense before them. Also the food I provided for you—the fine flour, olive oil and honey I gave you to eat—you offered as fragrant incense before them. That is what happened, declares the Sovereign Lord. (Ezekiel 16:16-19)
They took what God gave to then and abused it to sin with—and ran dry, only to ask for more!
I stand before God to once again ask of Him to help me and give me what I think I need. In my plastic bag are the things I received from God. God gave me eyes to enable me to work and play to his honour; I watch hours of TV and spend meaningless hours surfing the net for things that would not benefit me at all. He gave me time to be a good steward of; yet, there are hours of the day I use to indulge in personal satisfaction.
And then I have the audacity to once again ask! I ask after I abused the grace given to me, and yet, somehow, I think I have the right and God has the obligation to give.
This is surely not what Jesus meant when He said, “the Father will give you ask in My Name.” The full verse goes like this:
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:16-17)
He chose me and appointed me for a reason: to be a labourer in his vineyard. For this assignment I may ask and He will provide what I need to complete the work He wants done. God is not a giant slot machine, spitting out whatever we want after we paid him to do so!
Forgive me, Father. Teach me to understand what it means to be a steward of the things You entrust to me. Teach me to distinguish between what I need and what I want. Thank you for sending that man with the plastic bag and the beer to teach me something important. I pray that he will find grace in your sight. Amen.