Yesterday we were at the grocery store, the lines were long and full. As all of you know there is a hurried, rushed, anxiousness that plagues us this time of year. It could be because we have a sick child, a dying loved one, or maybe you are just short on money this year.
At my trip to the store this was the case. At first I thought the lady 3 people ahead of me who was checking out had trouble with an item or a coupon…but after a few minutes I realized she was just short of what she needed to pay for her groceries. As a mother and as someone who has been through ups and downs in life—my heart went out to her. I have been in the place where there was one too many doctor co-pays that month, the washing machine broke down, or a storm ripped the roof off. Yes, this is why we have saving accounts, and credit cards, and back up plans.
But today, I want to look at these types of situations from a different angle. From the way I understood this lady’s situation she only needed to put one item back and then pay for the rest and she had it covered. The problem came because the transaction already preauthorized for the full amount, so when the cashier tried to remove the item, the transaction still wouldn’t go through. But here is the most important part…I wasn’t in a rush, I wasn’t annoyed, I was present in this moment (otherwise I would have missed it)…my heart sincerely went out to this woman. So I asked how much she was short and offered her the money. To my surprise and disappointment she wouldn’t take it. She felt ashamed because I offered. She walked out of that store empty handed.
I know the whole thing was just a mix up and that she was probably having a really bad day and I know she did have the money. All she needed was to put one item back and it would have been golden. This was truly a bank error more than anything. But what made me so sad and what made me want to share this with you is because she felt SHAME when she was offered help. I know for a fact the shame struck her so deep today, she might not ever return to the same store again out of fear that she would see the same cashier or the manager who was trying to help.
My point is, she should not have felt shame! She really shouldn’t even be in this situation at all. But I don’t mean that in the way you think I do. There are a few verses that come to mind when I think of this situation.
1) 1 John 3:17-18 | If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has not pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.’
2) Matthew 26: 40, 45 | The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me. | He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
3) Acts 2: 44-47 | All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with gold and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
When I think of these verses I think of how Jesus when he was on this earth, he always did the most unexpected thing. He always went directly to the LAST person that everyone expected him to. He always ate with the LAST person everyone thought he would. He always used the LAST person anyone could pick out to use them to spread his message. You all…these are the LEAST. These are Jesus standing before us in the day to day. These people who need us at the grocery store, the hardware store, at the homeless shelter, at the side of the road—they need us! They need us to ACT. They need us to break bread with them. They need us to help them in a time of need. The last think they need is shame.
We don’t need to give to the people who need it out of obligation, gilt, or annoyance.
We need to give to the people who are JUST SHORT out of LOVE.
When we do this consistently, we share this message, people are able to receive our love offering without shame. They feel the love. They feel belonging. By our evidence, we cast out shame.
Out of our love for Jesus, for his message, for the gospel. When we give to those who need it, we are showing them the gospel message through action, but we are also giving to Jesus just like he said in Matthew. We should act like he is standing there in the flesh and blood and in need. The circumstances actually don’t matter. Let’s just give to those who are just short out of LOVE.