Tis the season of giving, thankfulness, and compassion. Spending money and eating lots of food seems to make people more likely to volunteer, donate, and say thank you. Schools have food drives, people don’t snarl at the Salvation Army person outside the grocery store, and most will even donate that dollar or five at the checkout counter – sometimes without even knowing the name of the charity. Generally speaking, this is a very positive thing. Giving to others not only helps others, but it also releases endorphins in the giver that makes them happier. There is literally a chemical response to giving. So, for those of you who find ways to go above and beyond in your giving or service to others this time of year, be blessed to be a blessing.
But, here’s a crazy idea, what if you extend your blessing – to the guy holding a sign on the side of the road or the woman asking for spare change in the parking lot? It’s good to give and serve intentionally and as a Christian you should desire to do this, but what about the unintentional times? What about the times when we aren’t thinking about it or we’re preoccupied or we’re judgmental toward the asker? What about those times?
A few years ago, a colleague at the school where I taught gave an exhortation on the story of the The Good Samaritan. Many of you know the story from Luke, but if you don’t: It’s a story about a man who was mugged and left on the side of the road. A priest came upon him and, as the teacher in my school pointed out, the priest came, passed to the other side of the road and then shunned the man, looking at him disdainfully. Another man who, let’s say for cultural context, was of the same race as the injured man did the same: he came, he passed, and he shunned. Another man came of another race, the Samaritan, and he showed compassion. He helped the man, bandaged him, took him somewhere to recover, and gave him money.
How often do we, as Christians, see someone in need and we come, pass, shun them rather than showing compassion?
In my years as a Christian, I have spent a lot of time intentionally serving God. While living in Atlanta, we frequently participated in outreach events in a Clarkston, a refugee community by donating clothes, giving of our finances, and spending a great deal of time. After one of these outreaches, I went to lunch with my family and then my husband needed something quickly, so we dropped by Walmart. My son and I waited in the car and a woman came up to my window to ask for money. I apologized and told her I didn’t have any cash, which was true, and she thanked me and moved on. I felt a bit guilty, but someone else would give her money, right? I mean, she could probably have applied for food stamps. Maybe she even got Welfare. And maybe she did. I have no idea. I didn’t know her. I just knew that she was wandering the parking lot with her five-year-old child asking for money for groceries. And I, a Christian, who had just spent hours serving others in the name of Christ and dropping $20 on one single meal for my family couldn’t help her because I didn’t have any cash. It was a convenient excuse to display come, pass, shun to this woman.
But I couldn’t do it. This conviction welled up inside of me. And even after my husband came back and I started driving toward the exit of the parking lot, I could not leave. I drove around until I found the woman and asked if I could buy her groceries. I went in and with $30 and 15 minutes I bought them food that could probably feed them two meals a day for a week. Just $10 more than the price of our lunch. But how many times have I driven away? Have I missed the opportunity to show compassion or be a blessing?
I want to be more like the Samaritan. I want to show compassion. And not just when I’m scheduled to show compassion, but whenever the opportunity presents itself. I want to show compassion whether it’s December or July or October. I want to show compassion on the side of the road, on a mission trip, or in a parking lot. I want the world to know that I love them and not because I’m so great, but because I have the most compassionate spirit living inside me and I want to show Him to the world.