He is there on the same street corner every morning on my way to work. I’ve glanced at the sign then quickly turn away in disgust. A few days ago, after I had looked away yet again, I took the time to ponder my reaction to the words on that sign and to ask myself, “Why?” What does it really cost me if I just give him a smile? One human to another? Did I even consider this disheveled, dirty, matted hair and beard, type of man, a human at all?
I delved a bit further into the motives of my heart and that’s where Jesus met me to allow me to sense my own shame and wickedness. This homeless man is not really the problem. It is my own selfish, unyielding heart. God accepts me just as I am, and he accepts the homeless man just as he is. He has compassion on us all, and perhaps even more so on the homeless, drug-addicted, alcoholic, abusive child molesters–because they have hit rock bottom and feel their desperate need for rescue day after day. They are incredibly shamed by people like me who look away. And all he wanted from me was a smile.
Why exactly do I look away? Is it because I am afraid he will make a connection with me, expecting me to now give him some money? Or am I not willing to listen when the Holy Spirit speaks to me about the fact that everything I own is his to do with for his own glory and praise? I think of the Scripture verse, Matthew 19:21, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor; and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.” I don’t believe God is literally telling each of us to give all we own to the poor. He is speaking to the condition of our hearts. He knows we won’t give the homeless so much as a smile; he also knows we won’t part with even an occasional dollar. We are so quick to judge the poor and homeless, even though we don’t know their stories. God, alone knows their hearts, and he listens to their heart’s cry.
How sad we would be if we looked to God for help and he turned away from us in disgust. In fact, he has already done that. He turned away from his only Son when he was nailed to a cross, dying for our sins. He could not look upon the man he loved more than any other human being because all our shame and garbage was taken from us and heaped upon Christ, in exchange for his righteousness. So, next time you see that same sign, beckoning for a smile, try giving him one and perhaps you will see God smiling in return. And if God puts it upon your heart to help in some way, do it.
That’s worth smiling about!