Need or Greed?

Last weekend, I was in the Sam’s/Walmart parking lot when I was flagged down by a woman walking around the parking lot. I had not parked yet, and I was in the middle of one of the rows when she motioned for me to roll down my window so that she could talk to me. I only rolled it down a few inches because I am extremely wary of people approaching me in parking lots…I’ve probably seen too many crimes shows on TV which has definitely contributed to my scaredy-cat mentality.

This woman told me she needed money to go to the grocery store Kroger, which is several minutes away. I told her that I would go with her into Sam’s and buy her some groceries. She told me it was too expensive and repeated her request for money. I again told her I would buy her some food from Sam’s. Again, she told me she wanted to go to Kroger, and so I told her we could go next door to Walmart and get her some food. She once again refused my offer, telling me she wanted money to get food at Kroger. I looked into her eyes and said to her, “I’m not giving you any money.” She waved me off and walked away.

I’ve been conned before. Several years ago, I was in a park with my kids, and I was approached by a man who said his two ton white truck had run out of gas. I gave him $6, which was all I had. He said it wasn’t enough money to put gas in his truck. I guess he thought I was going to be able to give him more money. I later found out I was conned because the same man used the same story on a friend of mine a few weeks later. I think my friend gave him money and lemonade. I don’t really regret giving this man money, but I’m sure it didn’t help him any…not really. My friend’s lemonade was probably more helpful than any amount of money either of us could give him.

On many occasions, Jeff’s dad has offered odd jobs to men standing on the side of the road holding their signs, “Will work for food.” Sadly, not ONE time did one of these men take him up on his offer to come cut wood for food. I know that there are many needy people out there…people who truly need food and shelter and clothing, but they may not be the ones that you see on the side of the road waving signs and collecting money.

My brother-in-law works at the Nashville Rescue Mission, and the mission never gives out money for obvious reasons. But they do offer men food and a bed and a chance to get help and also a chance to hear about the love of Christ. Some walk away because they don’t want what the mission is offering. Sadly, they often don’t realize that their need is greater than food or money.

Last Saturday in the parking lot, I was really thinking about what would be the best way to help that woman. Honestly, it would have been easier to ignore her completely, pretend she didn’t exist and go on about my day. Or, I could have handed her $10, and it would have made me feel pretty good about myself, but I still wouldn’t have had to really engage with her. I have walked through Walmart before with a man and bought that man a little bit of food. That was extremely uncomfortable and weird and more than a little scary and cost me something. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to doing it again. But it’s not really about me…

So, need or greed? It doesn’t really matter. For me, that’s what Matthew 10 means when it says “This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty.”


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