Within the last several weeks, I’ve been approached by the same ostensibly down-and-out person for help. The first time was right outside my in-laws’ home; the second time, yesterday, was at McDonald’s—two very different places within the same city. I do not believe that the person remembered that I had helped him out earlier, and am therefore all the more curious as to why he picked me out of a crowded restaurant on a Sunday afternoon.
My internal, and possibly external, reaction to this man was one of disgust: why was he asking me again? doesn’t he know he’s already tried his spiel on me? Having seen him now for the second time, I was more suspicious of the truth of his story the first time, and less inclined now to be gracious toward him. Still, in spite of myself, I gave the man what he was asking for: a ten-piece chicken nuggets meal “with barbecue sauce”. He thanked me both at the time and before he left the restaurant, coming back to find me in the playplace area where I was seated near my children.
I thought especially about my reaction to his request; my inhospitable spirit troubled me. And yet, I gave the man precisely that for which he asked. The two side-by-side, both my resistance to and persistence in grace, suddenly spoke to me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:11: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Just as suddenly as these words came to me was the realization that the one who had asked me for food, far from being a nuisance come to take advantage of me, was a messenger of God come to teach me. For if he, swallowing his pride, could ask—and receive—something good from an evil person, why do I not ask the God who “alone is good” (Mk 10:18) for that which I believe God wants to give me and those around me? For so he says: “For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (Mt 7:8).