Jesus in Carhartts

Matthew 5:42 says, "Give to those who ask, and don't turn away from those who want to borrow."

That seems easy enough. Most believers are happy to give to those who have the courage to ask. But what should your response be when the need is obvious, yet the request is unspoken? And, how do you follow Jesus' command to meet the needs of others when you can barely meet your own?

I asked myself those questions while buying diapers at a local grocery store. A few weeks prior, my husband and I had moved with our six-month-old son to center city Philadelphia to begin a new church and "save Philly for Jesus!" Brad and I were young, in love with the ministry, and felt ready to serve God in a radical way.

In short, we were passionately clueless.

I was attempting to buy the cheapest package of diapers with Stephen strapped securely in the cart. "What exciting piece of plastic will be on your butt this week, Stephen?" I asked.

Stephen just looked at me with his big blue eyes. One day, he would wonder out loud why his mom was such a wacko.

A woman in my peripheral vision crouched in front of the cans of baby formula. It wasn't easy to determine that she was, in fact, a woman because the oversized beige Carhartts coveralls she wore swallowed her body like a heap of laundry on the floor. She was tiny and wore a red bandana on her balding head. When she looked up at me from her squat position, I caught a glimpse of her desperate eyes that sunk into her dark gray face.

Although I mouthed the word "Hi," she ignored me, turning her attention to the shelf and nervously piling cans at her feet. I quickly realized she intended to steal them.

Shocked by the realization that I was about to witness a crime, I grabbed a package of diapers and wheeled my cart into the next aisle where Ritz crackers and Cheez-Its sat in neat little rows.

"God, what do I do?" I prayed, my mind searching for a Scripture that might give me a quick answer to her desperate situation. It came up blank.

I considered offering to buy the formula for her, but money was tight and our budget would be blown. I reasoned with myself that I was wrong and assured my troubled mind that she had every intention of purchasing the formula. I chided my arrogance and presumption.

I looked down at Stephen, sitting so happily in the grocery cart. Here was a baby who didn't know what it meant to go hungry for more than a minute. My heart cried out for the child whose mother had to steal to feed him.

July 11, 2008 at 11:52 AM

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