It happened a couple years ago. I was driving along heading to meet someone at Starbuck’s and got caught by the red light at an intersection. I was just about to hit the gas and pull out in front of a slow mover when she caught my eye. She was standing on the side of the road with an oversized cardboard sign. Scrawled in child-like handwriting were only two words. “Please Help.” She looked like she was in her sixties but life had not been kind…so she might have 30. Long blonde stringy hair falling down to her waist. Her face weathered and cracked. I quickly glanced around my car looking for the homeless bags we occasionally make at my church. I spotted a French Fry at least a month old, a wrapper from Wendy’s stained with ketchup, but no bag. Now let me be completely honest here. Normally I would have just hit the gas and moved on mentally and literally. But there is a peril of being a preacher. Even if no one else listens to your sermons, you do. For the simple reason you have spent hours living with the Scripture. I made the “mistake” of preaching on giving to the poor just that Sunday before. I essentially said that if we are going to follow Jesus, caring for the poor is not an option. It’s not like the “you pick two” at Panera. “Yes, I will have the ‘Jesus and His Redemption,’” but “Please hold off on the ‘Giving to the Needy’ bit.” I digress. All that to say I simply couldn’t just drive off without being a complete hypocrite. I looked around in the console and only spotted a few pennies. They looked corrosive. So unless she took Mastercard there was little I could do. Sure I had my wallet, but at the time I had two teenage girls. So do you really think I had actual cash? Except I did that day. A ten-dollar bill. Not sure how it escaped my family’s attention. I was thrilled that I actually had some real green in my pocket besides the lint. So in a span of 12 seconds I had to make a decision. I so badly didn’t want to part with Alexander Hamilton. I knew I wouldn’t see him or any of his friends again anytime soon. I was shocked that I felt this way. It struck me that my heart was growing callous. So I gave Mr. Hamilton away. As much to help to detox my soul as to help that desperate woman. I wanted to rid myself of an “infection” that had begun taking root.
COVID is not the only disease that you and I are dealing with in our world today. There is another that is in a way more nefarious. And Jesus wants to eradicate it from our lives. Jesus makes this clear in Mark 10:21 with the “well resourced” young ruler. Honestly, I think the young man was looking more for a “that-a-boy” rather than a theological treatise on soteriology (study of salvation), when he asked a question. Jesus surprised him when he gave him neither. Instead he told him to give his wealth away. Why? I believe because Jesus knew that the 20-something was fighting an infection. A disease of the heart. The infection was greed and the only way he could “inoculate” himself from it was radical generosity. Sadly enough, that was the one thing the young man was not willing to do.
In truth, we are all like that young man. Every day we have to make a decision. Are we going to allow the contagion of greed to consume us? Or are we going to fight the contamination by being open-handed? COVID may be the pandemic of our time, but greed is the plague of humanity. They both bring death; the first can kill the body, but the second can and will destroy the soul.
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