Some stories resonate in our minds no matter how many years have gone by. They are life lessons, at the least–and yes…no matter your age, experience, education, social status, income level, etc…you are not beyond ‘learning’. God always has a way to humble us and show us our shortcomings.
The ‘Panera’ Man
A couple of years ago I was at Panera Bread (an Internet cafe) to have lunch and do some work. I was in line about to place my order, and I stood behind a woman who was placing her order. She was holding an infant in her arms, and was waiting to pay the cashier. So the cashier rings her up and the woman fumbles through her purse for cash or some form of payment. Here was my most uncomfortable, inconvenient, awkward moment of that day: the valley of indecision.
Almost a minute passed and she still didn’t find her money. It was clear to me she didn’t have it on her. So there I was…watching a woman holding her child…her food on the counter…the cashier looking at her…people in line behind her getting impatient…and ME behind her (the one who could have immediately resolved this issue and saved her the embarrassment by simply paying for her meal!). I had more than enough on me to pay for it and I was just about to tell the cashier to add her bill to mine. But I didn’t! Why?
*Because I was uncomfortable stepping into her situation and helping her…
*Because I didn’t want to embarrass her by helping her as if she couldn’t pay for the order…
*Because I didn’t want to ostracize myself alongside this Panera ‘newcomer’ who didn’t have her money on her to pay for the order (unlike us other veterans in line who are the social elitists, well acquainted with each other, and well prepared to pay and keep the line moving)…
*Because I wanted to watch her be embarrassed by not being able to pay…
*Because I could have used that money to buy something else….the list goes on.
Now, normally I am a giver and I would not hesitate to bless someone else, even as God blesses me. But who cares about ‘normally’ when we don’t perform in the spotlight when God and people are watching! The point is that in one moment of selfishness, immaturity, foolishness, and greed….I was a thief:
- I robbed her (by not giving her what she ordinarily would have received had I had the least bit of compassion).
- I robbed myself (I didn’t get the honor and esteem of helping someone when I was in a position to do so).
- But more importantly, I robbed God (I didn’t allow Him to use me, the ‘good’ steward of His resources to bless others…I also robbed Him of the opportunity to bless me in return for my giving).
Will a Man Rob God?
That said, we need to ask ourselves this question: ‘Will a man rob God?’ (See Malachi 3:8). In other words, will we, in our small, powerless, limited state rob the Almighty God? In laymen terms, does a man have the audacity and ability to rob God? He certainly does, and I certainly did in the Panera situation. As noted above, we not only rob God of the tithes and offerings we are supposed to pay, we rob Him of the ability to bless us. He gains pleasure out of blessing us (See Psalm 35:27). I personally believe God is just as offended by us robbing Him of the ability to bless us as He is with us robbing Him of tithes and offerings to help others.
The moral of the story, you ask? Never forsake the opportunity to give, no matter the discomfort, inconvenience, temporary loss, etc. Please take the time this Thanksgiving and throughout the holidays to help someone else–what’s little to you (in terms of giving) may be a lot to them. Pay for someone’s meal, give them money, volunteer for a charity, talk to someone going through tough times, donate clothes to a charity. There are many ways to give. Finally, be mindful that in giving, you will bless others. You will bless yourself. And you will bless God, the Great Giver, who never is in the valley of indecision, but gives us all we need ALL the time.