Yesterday I heard about a homeless family that came to our church for help. I live in a small town, and we don’t see many homeless people around here. We certainly don’t see homeless families. With little children.
This family is living in a car. The dad has just found a job, but he won’t be paid for two weeks. They came to our church to ask for groceries. Groceries that don’t have to be cooked because they are living in a car.
Of course, my girls and I are going grocery shopping today. We sat at dinner last night and everyone called out all the things we should buy for them. “Bananas!” Silas shouted. “They need fruit to be healthy!” “Raisins! They aren’t messy!” Someone else screamed. “Crackers!” “Peanut butter!” “Oranges!” “Candy! Lots of Halloween candy!” We had a great time making a mental grocery list for this family.
Tenderhearted Rachel asked why we don’t just invite them to live in our church parsonage, which was recently vacated by the missionaries who had been staying there. My husband and I think it’s a great idea, but my husband explained that we don’t get to decide that, that our pastors and deacons will decide that. “Daddy,” Rachel asked, “if you were a deacon, would you vote yes?” He assured her he would if he could. Satisfied, she ate the rest of her dinner.
We have passed along her suggestion, along with the alternative suggestion of paying for a hotel room for this family for a couple weeks. I wish I had enough money to pay for a hotel room until they could begin renting somewhere. Or I wish I had rental property so I could work with this family to help them. Sometimes, it can be frustrating when my burden to help extends beyond my means of helping. But I know I am only called to obey and do what I can. So we will sacrificially buy groceries for them and trust God with the rest.
Sadly, I know some people won’t do what they can. Some people are too worried about being taken advantage of. I heard it just a couple days ago when discussing a different situation– “We can’t do that. Some people come along and just try to take advantage of us.”
You know what my very deep spiritual response is to that? Whooptie-Doo! That is nothing more than pride, a looking out for oneself and one’s own image. If I am loving someone else like I love myself and they take advantage of me, that’s not my problem. That is between them and God. I will know that I have done what I was called to do; I will know that I sought to demonstrate Christ and love my neighbor as myself. And the rest is up to God. Really, to me, it is as simple as that.
I have been taken advantage of before, and I am certain I will be taken advantage of again. I hope so, actually. If my love and compassion is not taken advantage of at some point, I probably am not being as loving and compassionate as I should be.
I’m supposed to be like Jesus, and Jesus was taken advantage of. Judas took advantage of Jesus’ friendship and then betrayed Him. But Judas wasn’t the only one. My husband and I were talking the other day about Jesus feeding those 5000 people. I wondered how many of those 5000 people who enjoyed Jesus’ unique blend of compassion and omnipotence that day later stood around Pilate’s courtyard screaming, “Crucify Him!”
Hmmm . . . makes whatever anyone could do to take advantage of my compassion seem like nothing.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be wise. Of course we should. But if there is a question, a judgment call to make, I think we should err on the side of compassion.