By Joe Jaggers
Okay, picture this. It’s a beautiful spring afternoon in a small town and you are out for a walk down Main Street. As you are walking down the street looking into shop windows you come upon a man sitting on a bench next to a liquor store. You notice that this man looks a little bit intoxicated and by the way he is dressed there’s a good chance he is homeless. The closer you get to him the more you struggle within yourself how to deal with this gentleman. Do you pass him by? Do you make eye contact and say hello? Or, do you quietly move to the other side of the street acting as if you needed to go that way in the first place? All of these options go through your head but today is different. Today the words of the missionary that spoke at your church the week before ring in your head. Today, you decide to sit down next to this gentleman and witness to him about Jesus Christ.
As you sit with the gentleman for a few minutes telling him about Christ, you are able to push past the nerves that you are feeling at the beginning. The words that are coming out of your mouth must be from God because you really didn’t know you knew so much about the Bible that you could explain it to somebody. And on top of all of this the man you were speaking to seems like he is truly interested in what you’re saying. Everything seems to be heading in the right direction for you to bring this man into the kingdom of heaven but that is when it happens. You ask him if he wants to pray and he says sure. But as you are praying you take a quick little peek to see if he is truly with you. As you wrap up your prayer you look at him and say, “Jesus truly loves you. You need to continually look to God to supply your needs.” And that is when the man tells you he is hungry and then he asks you for some money. You can smell the whiskey on his breath, and he is sitting next to the liquor store he spends most of his time in. You think to yourself if I give this man money there is a 98% chance he will drink it away and the thought of him taking advantage of you really ticks you off. What do you do?
I tell this story because something similar happened to me recently. There is one big difference between my experience and the one I wrote about above. And that is, that I had a previous relationship with the gentleman that I spoke with. I already knew some of this man’s history and I knew that not everything he told me about himself was true. So when he asked me for money I had to come to a crossroads that I had faced once before. In college, a man stopped me in the Wal-Mart parking lot and told me a sob story about how he could not make it home and he was hungry and was out of money. I knew in my heart that this man was lying to me so I made him promise me he would not by liquor with the cash I gave him. He promised me, so when I watched him walk away, my heart and trust were broken as he entered the liquor store with the cash I just gave him. So, do I give this man standing before me now the money he is asking for knowing that he may be taking advantage of me?
Here’s the lesson that I’ve recently been learning myself. Sometimes God will call you into a situation that you willingly allow yourself to be taken advantage of.
“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Be as wary as snakes and as harmless as doves. But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and beaten in the synagogues. And you must stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. This will be your opportunity to tell them about me – yes, to witness to the world. (Matthew 10:16 – 18)
When you go out into the streets, people are looking to take advantage each other. Because Christians are supposed to have a good nature, we are seen as easy prey. But Christians have come to realize the situation and have stopped letting themselves be taken advantage of. Now I’m not saying that Christians should walk around with a kick me sign on their back and give out wads of cash to everyone who asks. We are to use to servant and lean on Holy Spirit’s guidance. We are to be “wary as snakes.” We are to be aware of the situations that we are in and the possible intentions of the person to whom we are speaking. But Jesus also calls us to be “as harmless as doves.” When being held in someone’s hand, a dove is at the complete mercy of the one holding it. The dove could possibly fly away, but instead puts its trust in the one holding it and that means it could be easily killed.
“But I say, don’t resist an evil person! If you are slapped on the right cheek, turn the other, too. If you are ordered to court in your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow. (Matthew 5:39 – 42)
The dove and the snake could apply to this passage in Matthew 5. The dove is called by God to turn the other cheek but the snake knows that when he does there is a very good chance that he will be slapped on the other side as well. But once again, Jesus calls us to give what is asked for but then double down and give what was not.
Being taken advantage of hurts our pride, makes us feel dumb, and strips us of our rights to stand up for ourselves. But we have to think about who we represent when we step out on the street as a Christian. What did Jesus do for us when he came to earth? What rights can the one and only son of God cling to? Do our rights compare to the ones Jesus holds?
Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5 – 8)
When Jesus went to the cross he knew that there would be people who did not deserve the blood he was going to shed but he willingly went anyway. Jesus knew that for the rest of time there would be people begging him for what he had, only to wander back into the darkness they were in before. But Jesus willingly went anyway. Jesus knew that there would be people that would live their entire lives on their terms only to accept his gift at the very last second of their life but Jesus willingly went anyway. Jesus knew that all of humanity is like the beggar on the bench. He knew all humanity was going to take advantage of his ultimate gift through his blood. Jesus knew that none of us deserved what he would do for us and he knew that we would make him promises we wouldn’t keep. But Jesus willingly lets us take advantage of him because of his love for us. Always follow Christ’s leading but know that at some point you will be taken advantage of.
Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as day. (Isaiah 58: 10)