How many times have we seen that person on the side of the road holding a sign asking for money, food, or a job? How many times have we pretended not to see them? There are currently a large number of such people in many places. We see them walking down the road with their backpacks and bags, at the entrances to the fast food places or store parking lots. Occasionally we might even see them with their children sitting beside them. Many people turn their heads in disdain. Some individuals may begrudgingly hand out money or food to them. There are a few who keep bags of travel size hygiene items and snacks in their vehicles for such times as these and there are those who willingly hand out money or food to be of sincere help. How often have we been in line at the store and seen that person purchasing groceries with food stamps and they have items such as soda, snack cakes, chips, or other junk food and such in their cart? Or seen the woman with the high end purse and the expensive jewelry using some form of public assistance? How many have seen people get into expensive cars as they leave the welfare office? Some bystanders may comment out loud, judging, resentful, and belittling. Others may comment in their heads. Then there are those who pay it no mind and don’t think a thing about it.
We live in a society full of self appointed judges, ready to point out any and every flaw or perceived mistake someone else makes while ignoring their own. However, this is the world’s way of living. This should not be our way of living as followers of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 26:40 the Bible says, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, In as much as you have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.” Our culture today puts so much focus on how we portray ourselves, that people have forgotten to look beyond each other’s outward appearance or circumstances and see the man, woman, or child right in front of them. As children of Christ, we are called to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:1-16). We are instructed to let our light, meaning that special glow that comes from having the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, shine before all men. We are to live with kindness, love, and humbleness. God sees everything about each one of us. He knows the circumstances that brought each of us to where we are. That man standing in the entry to the fast food parking lot asking for food may be displaced due to job loss and a lack of resources in the area for single men. That woman buying junk food with food stamps may have a family that has not ever had those luxuries and has promised her children just this one time that they would get those treats. The woman in dirty clothes who is pushing a cart filled with bags and begging for your spare change may have had a nice home and a family once but due to unexpected tragedy found herself lost and unable to cope so resorted to living on the streets. Those people getting into that expensive car outside the welfare office may have borrowed it from a friend or family member for the day to be able to take care of important errands that would have taken several days if they had to rely on the local bus route.
Many may ask how to begin letting go of those automatic assumptions or reactions to these circumstances. The answer is simple. In 1 Corinthians 13 the Bible talks about charity or, love. It tells us that no matter what good we do, if we do not do it with a heart of love it is meaningless. Yes, it can and most likely will still bless the person the good is done toward. It will not however, help us to grow in Christ. Today, when speaking of people, the word “love” is used to describe how we feel about those who are close to us. It is easy to love and help a friend, family member, or neighbor who is in need because we know them, we know their story, they are a part of our story. God tells us in Matthew 5:44 that we are even to love our enemies. Hebrews 13:2 tells us not to forget to entertain strangers for by doing this, some have entertained angels unknowingly. This being said, we need to remember that while the people we come across may not be our family or friend, they are someone’s treasured, loved one. We do not have to know their story to show them love. We do not have to understand how they got to where they are before we decide to help them. We simply must ask God each day to guide us to where we need to be in order to glorify Him. Be open to His leading, listen for His still small voice consistently. Spend time every morning in His word, studying and growing your relationship with Him. By doing this you will be amazed at the overflowing love and compassion which chases away all of those preconceived thoughts about the people you come across. You will be inviting the Holy Spirit to grow your light and opening yourself to be used by God to bring Him glory and spread the gospel. After all, each one of us has sinned and come short of the glory of God. It is only through His grace and the gift of salvation through Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross that we have the honor of calling Him our Heavenly Father.