Pastor Matthew and I were grabbing lunch yesterday, waiting oh so patiently for our food at Five Guys so we could get to our grueling agenda of devouring a bag of french fries, when a stranger approached our table. “Can I get some advice?” the man says – “I’ll help if I can,” my cautious reply. And then he pulls up a chair. Matthew and I shared a look that both said the same thing:
Uh oh. This guy probably wants money, now it’s awkward. Now what?
So he sits down and pulls out his wallet and starts telling us a story. He’s parked on the other side of the plaza from where we are right now, and apparently he’s about to get towed by the police, but he has a flat tire. All he needs is to be able to run over to Lowe’s just down the street, get a can of Fix-A-Flat, and he’ll be good to go – but he doesn’t have the money for it right now. He needs $8 and only has $4 right now, and he’s even willing to leave collateral to come back and make change if we need him to. Now I don’t know about Matthew, but at this point I’m a little skeptical – but I check my wallet anyway.
I try to help the guy, but I don’t carry cash, but Matthew happens to have a $5 bill on him – so he gives it to the guy, and simply tells him to “pay it forward.” That’s the end of that, we think – and then the man asks Matthew a question that – if you know our dear Pastor Matthew at all, is not a pleasant question for a stranger who didn’t seem to be the cleanest to ask – “Hug for good luck?” I had to stop myself from chuckling out loud as I saw Matthew grimace uncomfortably a bit in an awkward side hug with the man that neither of us knew and before he walked away to hopefully get what he needed to get his car up and running.
We then got on with our mission of tearing through these fries (very successfully, I might add) and didn’t talk much of it. As I left, I got to thinking – how uncomfortable is it for us to be generous? This past Sunday in worship we heard Jesus’ words to the crowd during the Sermon on the Mount about how our Heavenly Father provides for all our needs – the needs of believers and non-believers. He gives to us without restraint, completely out of His generosity and kindness – and He doesn’t make it look uncomfortable. He doesn’t do it begrudgingly, He doesn’t need us to tell Him the full story first and explain in detail why exactly we need what we do. When we pull up a chair next to our Father, we don’t hear Him say – “Uh oh, this guy probably wants __________, what do I do now?”
Our Heavenly Father, through His Son, Jesus, gave and gives us everything we could possibly need in our lives. Not everything we want, not everything we think we need, but everything we need. He gave until it hurt, gave until it was as uncomfortable as it could be – giving us new life and salvation by His suffering and death on the cross. As we continue our journey through Lent, our journey through our lives and look to the cross for guidance, I pray that our response to God’s great love for us would be simply this – “pay it forward.”
Out of the deep gratitude for what Jesus has done for us, may we live our lives for Him, giving and serving in whatever ways He calls us and enables us to do, that through our mission all might know the great generosity of the Kingdom of God.