This morning I drove all the way into the city for nothing. I was supposed to have a dental appointment at the university dental clinic but there was a mix-up, so I was sent home. One-and-a-half hours wasted, I thought. But another appointment was kept—a divine appointment I didn’t know was scheduled until I arrived at the steps of the clinic and was met by a stranger in need. She asked for help, so I suggested we pray. She bowed her head and joined with me in pleading to the Father, and then I opened my wallet.
A person on the street is not necessarily a street person. But you have about five seconds to make mental calculations about two fields of knowledge: street culture and biblical imperatives. I decided to believe the woman’s story (I have been in far-fetched fixes myself) and to put the broadest possible construction on God’s command to “give to everyone who begs from you” (Luke 6:30). After all, we often decry the State’s usurpation of the Church’s role to the poor; here was a chance to be the Church.
Earlier in the morning I happened to read Colossians 1:9, Paul’s prayer that we be “filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” I know something of “God’s will” from the book of James that says that if someone “is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘God in peace; be warm and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:15-16)
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105), wrote the psalmist. If you have ever walked in dark woods with a flashlight, you know it brightens just a circle of light at your feet, enough to take only the next step. The Word of God and the Spirit of God are like that—they show you only what to do this minute, not what lies 50 yards up the road.
Was I conned? Well, brothers, that is more than I can know. I expect that in heaven God will say to not a few people, “Daughter, that woman you gave 10 bucks to on Broad Street? Total scam artist. But … because you believed she was genuine, and you acted in faith, well done, good and faithful servant! Now come and receive your reward!”
Besides, she could have been my “angel unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).