Friday, February 19, 2010

If you're going to claim to be a member of a certain group

act like it, mmkay?

The car has (yet again) become a lawn ornament. Brakes are out. That's not what this post is about, just setup for what I was doing downtown at a bus stop yesterday.

My mother, youngest daughter, and I had just come out of the Bill Miller's at St. Mary's and Pecan to wait on the 36 to go to the girls' school when a young man leaning against the wall of the building said to me something along the lines of "Ma'am, can I have a quarter? I'm trying to get something to eat."

So I was standing there by the bus bench digging in my wallet, 'cause, hell, a quarter, right? I don't often have cash on me anymore, but right then I did.

While I was rummaging, he repeated the question to a group of about three women walking past. They didn't say a word, but I glanced up and noticed the prominent display of a gold cross on one of the women.

I gave him my quarter and turned to look at the women, who were now on the corner. One of them turned around and said "God bless you."

'Cause, totally, that will fill up a stomach.

I realize I'm distinctly in the minority when it comes to this sort of thing. Most folks out there won't give money. I can't, always. But when I can, I do, and let me tell you I don't have a whole hell of a lot of extra money. None, really. But it's simply the Christian thing to do.

This is what I wanted to quote to that woman with her fancy gold cross and pointless words (that only served to make her feel holy):

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Matthew 25:31-46

Really, there are few things in Scripture that are laid out plainly, but I think this is one of them. As you do for the least of these, so you do for me. Don't we all learn this in Sunday school?

Yes, I know. I have no way of knowing whether he honestly needed food or not. Know what? Doesn't matter. I read an article years ago that put it this way: If I pass by someone in need, and they are legitimate, it weighs on my soul. If I give to someone in need, and they are false, it falls on their soul. As I claim to be a Christian, it is beholden upon me to endeavor to act like one, and Jesus charged us with taking care of one another. (Not, as some liberals would have it, relying upon the government to do it.)

And also: I know, the woman may give through her church. She may volunteer at the food bank. Whatever. While I will admit to the possibility, I don't see it as too likely. Quite honestly, I don't know anyone who would do the one but not the other.

I keep going back to that gold cross. That ostentatious representation of faith. Listen, I've got nothing against rich Christians. I go to church with a whole bunch of 'em. But I've got a real problem with proclaiming your faith while not living it. Don't have cash on you? Say it. Don't brush past the bum (who, by the way, was youngish and fairly clean, if scruffy), eyes concertedly ahead, pretending not to be there and only throw a meaningless phrase over your shoulder once you are safely half a block away. Say "I'm sorry, I don't have any cash." It's not hard.

And yeah, I'm a bad Christian for judging her. But I'll live with that particular sin.


Dave said...


I could go on.

the pistolero said...

Some people really give Christianity a bad name.

Anonymous said...

That quarter may have been what, which added to a few others, may very well have paid for a bite to eat.
Thanks for caring enough to help the guy.


W in Austin said...

Outsider observation from a Texas Jew: never met a Christian who needed a cross, gaudy, gold, or otherwise, to tell me that they were a Christian. Actions and attitude always said it plain enough. G-d shines through; that's the rule.

Matt G said...

I'm done giving quarters, dollars, and handouts to street folk. I did it. A lot. And I'd see them drink it later. I had an apple thrown at my truck once, after I gave it to a guy with a "Homeless. Hungry." sign.

I've been burned out of hundreds of dollars, over the years.

I would have been one of those women*. I'm sorry.

* Except that I'm a man, and don't wear a gold cross, and don't pointedly say, "God Bless You" to strangers.