Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Galatians 6 and a Panhandler

Before I share my post on Galatians chapter 6, I want to share an incident that happened yesterday.

My friend Kelly and I were sitting at a table at a lovely tourist area called "The Grove" in Santa Monica. We were grabbing a quick bite to eat before getting in line at the studio entrance to be in front of the line for audience seating at the show Dancing With the Stars.

We were eating pizza and drinking lemonade. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw an old, African American man going from table to table asking for money. When he came to our table, he asked Kelly for a dollar. She only had larger bills, so he came over to me and asked if I could spare a dollar.

His clothes were clean, but looked like the clothing of a very different era. He had a tweed jacket, brown pants, and worn-looking shoes on his feet. His hair and beard were long and unkempt, but didn't appear to be dirty. After seeing him being turned down by people at three other tables, I took out my wallet and gave him four dollars. He looked at me, said "thanks," and quickly walked away.

I must tell you that I often have conflicting emotions when people beg for money. In the past, I have been burned. One time, an African American lady who appeared to be in her twenties, came up to my car in a parking lot and asked for money so that she could buy her two kids (who I saw sitting in her old, beat up car) some McDonalds hamburgers. I gave her a five dollar bill. She said thank you and left.

I drove out of that parking lot with the intention of heading to the mall. Suddenly, I wasn't feeling well so I made a u-turn to go back home. As I was passing the strip mall parking lot where the woman asked for money, I saw her walk into the liquor store! I was so angry!! I pulled back into the parking lot, waited for her to come out and yelled at her for buying liquor with the money that she told me she would use for hamburgers for her children. She completely ignored me, got in her car and drove away.

One New Years Eve day, I was coming out of a Walgreen's store after buying some noisemakers, hats, and poppers for our party that night at the house. A man came up to me and asked for four dollars to buy some chicken. I told him that all that I have belongs to the Lord and that the money I was giving him was from my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and His bounty. I asked him to promise me that he would not use the money for liquor or drugs. He promised me. When I gave him the five dollars, he said, "Thank you, God bless you miss." I wondered whether or not he was a Christian.

The next several persons who solicited money from me also got a Biblical tract.

With this recent experience, I didn't say anything to the person as he walked away. I wondered what his spiritual condition might be? I didn't have any tracts with me. I didn't mention Jesus Christ. I didn't even say, "you're welcome." I don't know why I was silent. Perhaps I was feeling convicted because the last three people who previously asked for money were either ignored or turned down by me? I don't know.

My attitudes about giving money to panhandlers have often been conflicting. As you will notice, my attitude has changed over the years. I went from an "attitude of bitter anger" towards that woman several years back who I caught using the money for liquor to an attitude of "giving in silence" yesterday.

After finishing my pizza, I thought that I should have used that opportunity to at least mention the name of Jesus Christ to that man. I don't quite know why I was silent, but God knows. Maybe the Holy Spirit led me to hold my tongue for a change? (Yeah...I's a miracle!)

But when I read Galatians 6:1-10 this morning, it taught me a lesson about such matters.

Gal 6:1
BRETHREN, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

Gal 6:2
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Gal 6:3
For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

Gal 6:4
But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

Gal 6:5
For each one shall bear his own load.

Gal 6:6
Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.

Gal 6:7
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.

Gal 6:8
For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

Gal 6:9
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Gal 6:10
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

In Galatians 6:1-3, we are told that no Christian should ever think that he or she is totally independent and doesn't need help from others. No one should feel excused from the task of helping others. That is why when we see someone who needs help, and we are able to help, we should do so. When there is a Christian brother or sister who needs correction or encouragement, we should humbly and gently reach out to that person (see John 13:34,35).

Verse 4 tells us to feel good about ourselves when we do our best. We shouldn't compare ourselves to others. Think about it. People compare themselves for many reasons. When tempted to compare, we should look at Jesus as an example. He inspires us to do our best, while at the same time, his loving acceptance comforts us when we fall short.

Fall short? Been there...done that...a lot!

The New Living Translation (NLT) form of Galatians 6:5 says:

Gal 6:5
For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

That speaks to every one of us!

The next several verses (NLT version) use modern language to describe what the NKJV says about "reaping" and "sowing."

Gal 6:7
Don't be misled. Remember that you can't ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow!

Gal 6:8
Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.

Gal 6:9
So don't get tired of doing what is good. Don't get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.

Gal 6:10
Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.

Sometimes, it can be discouraging to continue to do right and receive no word of thanks or see no tangible results. But Paul challenged the Galatians and he challenges me (us) to keep on doing good and to trust God for the results. In due time, we will reap a harvest of blessing.

Thank you Jesus! I needed to read that today!


Susan Smith said...

Hi Christine:

I appreciate your transparency. You are a blessing to many with your words of truth.

Money can be a curse as well as a blessing to any individual or ministry. When we give to others or to a ministry, then God sees our hearts no matter how the money is used. We have seen examples of ministries in our world today that have gotten way off track because of the love of money. Many are deceived that money is the same as power. The Bible tells us all power belongs to God.

This writer has given to ministries that have been brought down and have fallen by shameful and sinful behavior. Was my giving a mistake? No, because God works in all things for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (see ROM 8:28). I have used money in my own personal life to buy alcohol to get drunk and dope to smoke and these dollars became a curse in my life. There were times these funds were given to me by others who loved me and believed they were blessing me. Were they wrong? Were they out of God’s will when they gave generously from their hearts? Not necessarily! ALL things work together for good to those who love God.

The Lord has done and continues to do a mighty work in your life, my beloved sister. HE who has begun this work will complete it (see PHI 1:6). Continue to be generous and kind. We are never expected to judge the actions of another, but we are commanded to love. God bless you during this Passover/Easter season, my friend on the West Coast. I love you. (ss)

limpy99 said...

If someone takes advantage of your genorisity and uses it for bad things, well, that's on them. Not you.