A woman approached me at a service station last night. She was looking for money, claiming it was for gas. She pointed to an old Ford Explorer, saying she was stranded and her kids were waiting in there for her to take them home. I’ve heard this pitch a dozen previous times at gas stations– with slight variations– over the years. “I just need a couple dollars to get home.” She looked through me, not at me. Her schtick was rehearsed, practiced, tired, void of any humility or any emotion. “I’m a Christian,” she said. “I pray to God you can help me.” Now I was pissed. “Stop it,” I said. “Don’t disrespect God to me.” “I mean it!” she protested. “Look,” I said as I took out some bills, “the routine’s old. Try something else.” She gave me a rehearsed look of dejection. “Merry Christmas!” she spat at me as she went off with my lunch money (NOT in the direction of the station cashier to get gas, I might add).
This kind of encounter never ends well for me. If I responded cheerfully and forked over the dough without hesitation, I’d still feel like a mark and a bad steward of my money. If I denied her the money, I’d feel like an ass. As it turned out, I knew I was getting took, but because I couldn’t swear to it on a stack of Bibles, I reluctantly handed over the money on the off-chance some little kids might get home safely or, at least, get some hot McDonald’s. But since I exacerbated the situation by protesting as I did, I felt no reward was to be found. I let myself be used and surgically removed any charity from the incident myself. And I hate that she said “Merry Christmas” to me!
To what extent do we share? Do we give everyone with their hand out the benefit of the doubt and let the Lord sort it all out later? Are we to be more responsible for the allotment with which He entrusts us?
These questions will forever plague me.