The other day, I was reading the Bible to my little daughters and we came across a passage that made me a little uncomfortable. In it, Jesus said, “Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow” (Matthew 5:42).
It felt awkward when I tried to explain the verse to the girls.
“So – um – what this means is that if someone asks for something you have, then you should give it to them – you know, if you can.”
“And then you’ll get it back?” asked Daniela.
“Uh – well, not necessarily,” I said. “It looks like Jesus just wants us to give it and not try to get it back.”
After that, I left for work, taking my lunch in a large Tupperware bowl and my drink in a one-liter stainless steel bottle. It never crossed my mind that I would get a chance to obey Jesus’ command before the day was over.
On my way home from work, I walked up to the bus stop in the freezing, blustery wind; and an elderly woman who clearly had mental illness came up and said, “Sir, can you get me on the bus using your card?”
“They don’t let you do that,” I said, truthfully.
“Well, can I have your bottle and bowl?” she asked, looking down at the plastic bag containing my bottle and dirty Tupperware.
I tensed up. I’ve had that stainless steel bottle for almost seven years, and I’ve taken great pride in not losing it – especially since my wife paid $25 for it.
“Um – why do you need it?” I asked.
“Because I’m going to the shelter and you have to bring your own containers for food. I need to put rice in it.”
“You can’t put rice in that bottle,” I said.
“But I can put hot tea in it to keep me warm.”
She will burn her hands if she puts hot tea in this stainless steel bottle, I rationalized.
“Can I have them?” she repeated.
“Do you have a social worker?” I asked, trying to change the subject.
“You’re my social worker,” she said. “So can I have the containers?”
“Well, the Tupperware is really dirty,” I said.
“I can wash it,” she insisted.
“Okay,” I said, handing her the dirty Tupperware. “I’m really sorry it’s so dirty.”
“That’s okay,” she said; and then she left and tried to hitch a free ride on an arriving bus.
Standing there in the cold, I heard the words, “Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” And then it hit me, This is what it’s like to ignore God’s voice.
I looked around for the woman so I could give her my treasured bottle, but it was too late. I had missed my opportunity to practice a little marginally-radical obedience. So the next day, I took the bottle to work and drank iced tea from a container that didn’t belong to me.