Out and about on errands, I suddenly craved a diet soda. I spied a hamburger fast-food restaurant and headed for it–when I also spied a homeless man sitting on a block wall holding a hand-printed sign. I couldn’t read the sign but immediately felt the familiar guilt of thinking I should help him but how could I know how the money would be used? I’ve struggled for a long time with what to do in these kinds of situations and I know different people have different perspectives. I usually try to seek the Lord’s direction but as a default, rarely do anything.
But as I pulled into the drive-through line, I felt like I should buy the guy a hamburger and soda. And I got excited about it but fear mingled in too. Wonder if I pull up to him and he jumps into my car and pulls a knife and has me drive to San Francisco…. Well, my fears are good at jumping to wide-ranging conclusions.
Regardless, I was gonna do it.
I received the hamburger and two drinks at the pick-up window and drove over to him. As I pulled up beside him, he smiled and jumped up from sitting on the wall. I extended the bag to him along with the drink. He looked at me through the window and asked, “Is it a hamburger or a chicken sandwich? And if it’s not a diet soda, I really can’t have the sugar from a regular drink.”
I was speechless. I tried to answer that it was a hamburger but the words caught in my throat. He started mumbling as he looked inside the bag, “Someone brought me a hamburger already this morning. I’m sorta tired of them. I sure hope this is a chicken sandwich. I haven’t had one of those for awhile.”
NOT! OK, it didn’t really happen that way. But as I drove away from the man who expressed his appreciation over and over again, my imagination took over and I wondered what it would have been like if that had happened.
And then I thought about how each of us is a beggar before God, deserving nothing from His hand yet in His mercy, grace, and generosity, He gives us the banquet of His presence and a feast of His love. But we sometimes react like my imaginary ungrateful homeless man. “Well, Lord, why did you give me that trial and not the easy one that my friend has? And you should know that I really can’t handle rejection right now. I’m tired of what’s going on in my life. I deserve a trouble-free life.”
It seems sorta silly for a beggar to be picky when it comes to hamburgers and chicken sandwiches. But maybe we’re doing the same thing when we are ungrateful for God’s choice of how He works in our lives. We really don’t deserve anything good at all. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Everything, even an opportunity to be challenged in order to grow closer to God, is His gift.
Let’s be grateful beggars.