Friday, February 23, 2007

Entertain strangers

Just the other day Alan, at the Assembling of the Church, posted an article entitled Justice, Kindness, Mercy..., reminding us that the early church followed the mandates in Scripture to take care of the elderly and the poor. He then shared his own struggles and need for God’s teaching and guidance in the matter.

With that post in the background, let me share with you some of my struggles. Yesterday I was walking home after class when, while still on campus, I was approached by an elderly lady who asked me for $10 so that she could get some food. As has been my custom now for years, I told her that I would not give her money, but I’d be glad to buy her some food. This is a practice that I learned from my mom, who taught me to have compassion for people in need. I can remember many times when mom stopped at a store to buy a beggar something to eat. She always told me never to give them money, for who knows what they will use it for, but instead, to go ahead and buy them some food. Sadly, I have to admit that I did not put her advice into practice until after I became a Christian: before Christ transformed my life there was much selfishness and very little compassion in my heart.

But getting back to my story … so I asked the lady where she was planning to go eat. She told me Skippers. Now, Cindy and I rarely go out to eat (our entertainment budget is set at $20 per month) and thus I had no idea of the price range of dishes at Skippers, all I knew is that it was located close by. On the way, the lady shared with me that she has a couple of young ones at home, so I kindly suggested that maybe we could go to Domino’s and I could buy her a pizza that she could take home. She told me that she had been craving real food, so we continued to Skippers.

Upon arrival, I discovered that the dish she wanted was $15.99. I told her that was too expensive and that it would be better to go and get her a pizza. She then asked if she could get the shrimp dish instead of the barbeque, she thought it was less expensive. It turns out that it was $10.99: cheaper, but still very expensive for a single meal. I reasoned with her that it would make more sense to get a pizza for that price, so that she could share it with her family. Apparently, her heart was set on shrimp because she told me that she would not eat it all and would share her leftover shrimp with her family. I couldn’t believe my ears!

I finally told her that I would buy her a pizza, and we headed over to Domino’s. On the way and as well as in the store, I shared with her about the God who changed my life: the reason why I was actually doing this. She told me I was a good person, to which I answered that I was not: the good she saw was God acting in my life.

I was not being pious, inside I was extremely frustrated with her, and the only thing that kept me from just leaving was the love of Christ. Cindy and I had discussed earlier that day that we did not have money to go eat at Taco Bell, and here I was buying a stranger food and she was being picky about the food she was getting, wanting to go eat out at a restaurant that my wife and I would not go to because we consider it too expensive.

I sit here asking myself did she just take advantage of me. Then I think of Alan’s post and Scriptures like Heb 13:2 which states: Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

And there in lies my struggle: what has God called me to do in a situation like this?


Anonymous said...

Perhaps she took advantage of you, perhaps not - that's between her and God. You're not responsible for her actions or motivations, you are only responsible for your own. You were obedient - you showed compassion and the love of Christ. Since she wanted to share only the leftovers with her family, maybe God let your paths cross so that she could see generosity and unselfishness in action and realize she needs to change.

Alan Knox said...


I linked to this post on my blog also. I'm glad that you are continuing this discussion. I understand your concerns about being used. As I read this, and as I've thought about how God expects us to help people, I wonder, do you think God wants us to always do the rational/logical thing when we are helping people?


The Paynes said...

Here's the thing - this same woman (I'm not positive, but it sounds about the same) approached my husband on campus 2 months ago and asked him for money. He offered to take her to buy groceries, but she gave him some excuses why she didn't want to. She asked if she could just have the $10 bill in his hand. He again offered to take her to buy groceries and she again refused. He ended up wishing her a good day and walking away.

How do you get rid of the icky feeling of someone taking advantage of you? Isn't there a difference between sharing God's goodness with someone and letting someone continously take advantage? Who decides where that line is?

Maël said...

I will be replying in more detail later. But I wanted to refer you to a comment that Steve Sensenig made in a parallel discussion on Alan's blog.

thanks for posting on my blog. Who are you?

Alan & Leah,
I ask questions in this post, you give answers ...

bryan riley said...

27"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Alan Knox said...


I'm better at asking questions. I trust the Lord to provide the answer, but at times I'm slow to hear his answers. I know in this case (dealing with poverty) that I have been taught many things that may not be God's way. I'm trying to listen to Him.


nurturing notes said...

I think I this same lady, approached me too (although she did accept a generous portion of animal crackers and then asked the next person she saw)
Anyway, my thoughts went to wishing I had opened up my home to her, figuring out how I could be more of a part in her life... I didn't just want to take care of her immediate need, but I wanted to get to know her.

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