Panhandling for True Satisfaction
Spiritually speaking, we're all panhandlers looking for the satisfaction that only Christ can give.
Being asked for spare change by a person on the street corner can often make for an awkward situation. Do we look them in the eyes or do we gaze off into the distance? Do we read their sign for help or do we choose to ignore it? Do we extend them some cash or do we withhold it? These and more questions may race through our heads during those 30 seconds we're stopped at the red light.
As I look back on my past experiences with panhandlers, I confess that my giving has been erratic. If I'm in a good mood or the person's signage is humorous or heartbreaking, I will open the window and lovingly hand the person a dollar or two. On the other hand, if I'm having a less than stellar day or I've lost any resemblance of compassion, I'll divert my eyes from the person; I won't read their plea for assistance; I won't give them a nickel or dime. Being asked for spare change is often cumbersome.
You may recall that once promising story about a local news reporter in Columbus, Ohio, who met a panhandler named Ted Williams. Williams became a media sensation overnight: "the man with the golden voice." His video footage went viral on YouTube with over 18,000,000 hits. He eventually was offered a job with the Cleveland Cavalier basketball team as an announcer and was considered for other radio broadcasting positions. But, sadly, his former ways got the better of him and he lost his way.
As we travel through life, we meet all types of people who need our help. But what if what they're asking for is not all that they need? In Acts 3:1-10, Peter and John are making their way to the temple for afternoon prayer when they are stopped by a panhandler looking for a handout. What can we learn from this story as we think about the people that ...
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Matthew D. Kim is Associate Professor of preaching and ministry at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and the author of Preaching with Cultural Intelligence: Understanding the People Who Hear Your Sermons (Baker Academic, 2017).