The encounter with the ragged man.
A bit of a ragged looking young man walked into the hotel where I was a receptionist one morning and asked in Portuguese language for breakfast. He explained that he didn`t have any money and that his boss would come around noon to make the payment.
I didn’t really know the ‘order of the day’ around the place as yet, since I had recently started working, so I went to the kitchen and talked to Roger the chef about the matter. Roger turned up his nose and raised his eyebrows (and indeed, something of this nature is bound to raise some eyebrows!). He responded that it is a complete `no no`.
I could see with him. After all, what reassurance do we have that this guy would not just disappear and never come back.
He said his boss would be coming from Boa Vista, a city in the neighboring country of Brazil which was located about 2 hours drive from Lethem, where the hotel was.
I explained to the ragged stranger that the answer to his request was negative (and you probably gathered by now that I was a bit fluent in Portuguese myself). His face displayed a disappointed look. Well, what did you expect?
The Dilemma with the Ragged Man
I was not working for the highest salary in the world at the time, and being a bit `tight fisted` with money would be considered a noble thing under the circumstances; but, on the flip side of the coin, what kind of a human being would I be if I let this guy walk about of here without paying for his breakfast?
To Give or Not to Give – The Story of the Ragged Man
What did Jesus say? What would Jesus do? ‘Give to all who ask’, ‘feed the hungry’, ‘clothe the homeless’, ‘I was hungry and you fed me not….’
Can I risk losing the cost of one breakfast? I can. But can I risk being told by God ‘I was hungry and you fed me not’? I can’t!
Then my mind reeled back to the words of King Solomon in the book of Proverbs ‘whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but whoever shuts his eyes to the poor receives many curses’. And also, ‘whoever gives to the poor honors his maker, and He will repay what he has given’.
Sometimes you don’t know the reason for people’s misery. This man could easily be a drug addict. Does that mean paying for his breakfast is something wrong? Certainly not! What he does with his life and money is between him and God and what I do for him is between me and God.
Many people make fine excuses for not doing a good deed, or for not fulfilling the word of God. These excuses are so creative, numerous and saturated with venom:
Don’t give them anything. They’re lazy!
They don’t like to work!
They have no brains!
She’s a drunkard!
They are paying for their deeds!
And indeed, these are all fine excuses, but the truth is, God doesn’t want to hear your excuses! When the day of judgment comes for what you did and did not do for your fellow human beings, whether this judgment takes place in divine providence without your participation, or you’re face to face with God himself, God won’t care about the convenient excuses of the selfish.
The excuses of the selfish are convenient and highly meritorious in their own eyes. According to their own understanding, it causes them to save and gain. But as it says in Proverbs ‘riches fly towards heaven’, and ‘cast your bread upon the waters and after many days you will find it back’.
Also, the bible teaches us to ‘trust in God with all our strength and not our own understanding’.
It was nothing short of painful to doll about the breakfast money for the ragged stranger; especially considering the fact that it equaled my pay for about one complete day’s work.
But after meditating upon the word of God, his awesome power and his instructions toward man, it brought so much joy to my heart that day that I bought a breakfast for the ragged man…the kind of joy that all the money in the world can’t buy!
As I wrote this story, the following truth dawned upon me: It is better to give than to receive.
N.B.: I am not saying that it is not possible to err on the side of leniency. It is! And people with a good heart can be taken advantage of. But when it comes to the most basic needs, and the person is clearly in need, a true christian shouldn’t turn his or her back and walk away.