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“Hey man, you got some change? It’s a real hot day, and I could use a drink.”
Expectant eyes look into mine as I reach for my wallet.
My conviction to be generous wrestles with my doubt: could I be helping quench this man’s thirst for Dr. Pepper, or for something far more destructive? How am I to know how this stranger will spend my three dollars?
As he disappears around the corner, I consider the situation, which reminds me of a Kendrick Lamar song.
In “How Much a Dollar Cost,” Lamar describes a scene nearly identical to what I had just experienced, but different in one important detail: Lamar denies the homeless man a single dollar.
After a brief conversation with Lamar, the man reveals himself to be Jesus Christ, telling Lamar that the price of the dollar was his place in heaven.
As a commentary on greed, “How Much a Dollar Cost” encourages listeners to think not of panhandler’s plans for their money, but rather of the bigger picture: their duties as human beings to take care of each other.
By extension, Lamar appeals to Christians to be Christ-like in our treatment of others, to give without hesitation.
In a train station, I find myself able to, although unsure of his motives, do my best to make a positive impact on the man’s life in the only way I can.
I do not believe that we should always assume the best, but to make a positive impact on others; it is necessary to suspend disbelief and listen to God.
How unfortunate would it be to deny a brother or sister in Christ a few dollars out of distrust or a lack of understanding?
Using common sense is still important. We can trust God to use our money for His good, while keeping an eye out for obvious warning signs that something is not right.
Certainly there are situations where a handout will perpetuate a problem instead of alleviating it.
At the end of the day, I believe it is always best to give to the needy, unless I see overwhelming evidence that I will do more harm than good.
When on the fence about it, I find it best to trust God and let Him use my pocket change to touch another’s life.
The homeless man returns and sits down a few minutes later, change from the vending machine in one hand, and a Dr Pepper in the other.