In Oklahoma, there is a sandwich shop that I love called City Bites. Whenever I drive to Oklahoma City, I almost always try to stop at City Bites at least once. I really love those sandwiches.
Several years ago, I had developed a system in which I would stop at City Bites on my way out of town. I would order two sandwiches—one that I would eat on the drive back to Texas, and the other to save and eat the next day.
Like I said, I really love those sandwiches.
One day after I had already purchased my sandwiches, I was waiting at a red light about to turn onto the Interstate and take myself (and my sandwiches) back to Texas. A woman was standing on the median next to my car, holding a sign.
The sign said: “I am hungry. I am a mother. Please help.”
I could tell that she was trying to make eye contact with me, so I became very interested in all of the other cars, my cell phone, the radio, etc.
The light would not turn green.
I should stop here and mention that there is a passage in the book of Luke in which lots of people are coming to see John the Baptist, trying to jump on his religious bandwagon. When he sees a certain group of people show up, he says this-
“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
(Luke 3:7-11, emphasis mine)
These people want to be part of what John is doing, and he’s got some pretty harsh words for them. His solution to their problem: If you have two of something, give one to someone who has none.
So there I sat in Oklahoma City waiting for the light to change from red to green so I could stop looking at this hungry woman.
I began to rationalize my inaction: Her clothes aren’t that bad. She’s probably just scamming people. Then, I don’t even have any cash with me. It’s not that I don’t care, I just don’t have anything she can use.
But then, I had a thought that I didn’t mean to have: But don’t you have two sandwiches?
Yes, I thought, but I don’t even know if she likes turkey. What if she just throws it away? Then that’s a sandwich wasted!
(Why would this light not turn green?)
Finally, I rolled my window down and held one of the sandwiches out the window (I didn’t give her both sandwiches. What am I, crazy?).
She smiled and said thank you.
I told her that I hoped she liked turkey.
Finally, the light turned green. She waved goodbye as I drove away, one sandwich lighter.
It took me far too long to figure out that I needed to give that woman a sandwich. This isn’t a story about how generous I am; this is a story about how long it takes me to get the point.
One of the first things Luke tells us—even before Jesus shows up in the story—is about how John the Baptist tells people to give one to the person who has none.
In this series we are exploring the question, What do we do after we believe in Jesus?
Apparently, one of the first things we need to start doing is looking for opportunities to give something to those who need it.
In his book For All God’s Worth, N.T. Wright describes God in these terms-
[God] is neither the high-and-dry, remote god of so much modern imagination, nor the dark force that drives people into selfish and destructive lifestyles. He is the God who gives himself totally to his world, gives himself in sacrificial love, pours himself out generously, recklessly and prodigally upon creatures. (p. 30, emphasis mine)
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, as human beings we reflect the image of God, and one of the defining characteristics of this God is a loving generosity that is poured out.
So this is what it means to follow this Jesus: We pour ourselves out. We find opportunities to help others.
We give to the one who has none.
This could be a stranger at a streetlight, or this could be the person who lives right next door to you.
This could be the act of watching someone’s kids as they repair their marriage or find a new job.
This could be the act of driving someone to the grocery store.
This could be the act of giving a coat to someone who is cold.
This could even be the act of giving away a delicious sandwich.