He was just standing there. Shivering in the cold.
And no one stopped to help him.
Such was the case of a video I recently saw on Facebook which portrayed a 14-15-year-old boy in New York City during the wintertime. Wearing only a thin, tattered t-shirt, some jeans and tennis shoes, the young teenager held a small cardboard sign on which he’d scrawled, “I’m hungry and homeless. Please help me.”
For two hours no one—absolutely no one—stopped to ask his name or offer any assistance whatsoever.
But, all that changed when a black man, probably in his late 30’s or early 40’s, stopped and asked him his name. Then, he sat down next to the visibly shaking boy, who’d wrapped himself in a large garbage bag, took off his coat and wrapped it around the kid.
Then, he said “I’m homeless, too. I know what you’re going through. I messed up my life years ago, but you’re still young and have your whole life ahead of you. I want to help you.”
He then handed him the few dollars he had in his pocket and hugged him.
Since this was being videotaped, I figured it was a staged event to see how many people would reach out to the homeless lad. And, sure enough, after the stranger handed him the money, the teenager’s two brothers approached them, told the unsuspecting “angel in disguise” what they’d been doing and handed him over $500.
No wonder the video later went viral.
To me, it was a modern day version of Jesus’ “Parable of the Good Samaritan,” where a certain man, traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, had been robbed, beaten and left for dead by some thieves (Luke 10:29-37).
As he lay there, bruised and bleeding, a priest and Levite passed by, saw his plight, but “passed by on the other side” instead of helping (vv.31-32). But, “a certain Samaritan happened upon the victim…had compassion upon him…bound up his wounds…loaded him up on his donkey…took him to a local inn…got him a room…paid for it for several days… and promised to pay any additional charges when he later returned that way” (vv.33-35).
Then Jesus asked, “Which of those three men—the two priests or the Samaritan—was a ‘neighbor’ to him who fell among thieves?” (v.36).
And, the self-righteous, religious leaders who’d been listening, replied, “The one who showed mercy to him”—to which Jesus said “Go and do likewise” (v.37).
Thus, in the above-mentioned video, it would seem the African-American stranger embodied Jesus’ teachings by his actions. And, like the Samaritan, who stopped to help the Jewish man even though there was deep-seated animosity between their two ethnic groups, the homeless black man showed great compassion.
Dear Reader, the question is “What would we have done if we’d been there that day—either on the Jericho Road or the streets of New York City? Would we have pulled our robes/ coats tightly around us, ignored him and kept on walking? Or, would we have stopped and done what we could to help, even though we couldn’t have ‘afforded’ it?”
Tough questions, aren’t they?
Yes, but questions that demand an answer—especially if we profess to be a follower of Christ.
For sure, there are many shysters, scam artists and panhandlers out there today. That’s why we must be “wise as serpents and gentle as doves” (Matthew 10:16) in our dealings with others. However, we must also remember to not judge a book by its cover and always be ready to help those in need whenever we have the opportunity.
Always remember that Jesus commanded us to help “the least of these in their need because in so doing we’re doing it unto Him” (Mt. 25:35-45). We’re also told to “not be forgetful to show hospitality to strangers—for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).
Amen and amen. Help us, O Lord, to be found faithful. God bless you.
NOTE: If you’d like to contact Bro. Tom or receive his daily e-mail devotional, entitled “Morning Manna,” you can write him at P.O. Box 10614, Fort Smith, AR 72917 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.