I avoid pumping gasoline whenever possible. The task is smelly and messy and, quite frankly, I do not feel safe in most gas stations. In fact, the indicator light often forces me to pull into a gas station after I have procrastinated as long as possible.
One particular day, I felt my worries were confirmed as I pulled in, only to find a haggard-looking man making his way toward me. I sat in my van as he haltingly closed the gap between us. His gait made me think that he had possibly suffered a stroke. Illness or injury was confirmed as I noticed one side of his face sloped downwards. It was hard to estimate age, but his body told a tale of decades of life in a broken world.
I paused briefly, then rolled down my window and asked, “How are you?”
“I’m outta gas. Could you give me a dollar?” he asked. Cornflower blue eyes stared at me through deeply-hooded lids. His skin, golden brown and not too craggy, defied my first impression of old age. Something about him caused me to want to help him, and since I had just gotten paid for a cleaning job, I was in a position to grant him his request. He took the money and looked at it, then touched it to his stomach, bent over, and yelled, “I love it when poor people give me money!” Startled by his outburst but intrigued by his unusual response, I leaned in and listened.
“You wait. I’m going to tell everyone what you did. The whole world will know. You will have houses, and your children will be provided for.” I sat still, bewildered at the things he said, while he hobbled off.
I thought, and still think, that these were unusual statements for this man to declare. Some would probably say he was delusional and not give this encounter another thought. But I have just enough curiosity to wonder if he may have been an angelic being sent with a message, as we read about in Hebrews: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (13:2). Whether he was an angel or not, the encounter caused me to take a closer look at my relationship with God and others in several ways.
First, his request tested my willingness to give of my time and money to a stranger. Would I be able to sacrifice for someone who couldn’t pay me back, someone who didn’t look or talk like me?
And when I obliged, his response stuck with me. First he told me, “I love it when poor people give me money.” He is in good company with this thought. Scripture says, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7), and “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed” (Proverbs 19:17). Our God does delight when we are generous, especially when it is sacrificial (2 Sam 24:24), so I’m going to receive that reminder.
Then my blue-eyed friend declared, “I’m going to tell everyone what you did.” His words had an air of authority and are interesting in the light of Paul’s statement: “each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done” (1 Corinthians 3:13). Heart check time! Why am I serving? Is it to bring glory and honor to me, or for King Jesus?
Finally, he declared, “You will have houses, and your children will be provided for.” Hearing it brought two bits of Scripture to mind. First, Deuteronomy 6:10-12:
And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
And second, John 14:2: “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” The Deuteronomy verses are both wonderful and daunting, as they contain promises and warnings. John 14:2 gives insight into where Jesus is and what He is doing on behalf of His people. Imagine moving into a new home that has been under construction for over 2000 years!
I cannot claim that the man who begged from me that day was an angel, nor that he wasn’t, but I can say that our conversation brought many biblical themes to mind.
God calls us to remember Him and that He is the one who provides, and because of that, we can be generous and hospitable, knowing that He is preparing a new home for us. And of course, as Christians, we should be careful how we interact with everyone because we never know when someone is on a divine mission.