It was a wet and cold Oklahoma day. It had been raining the day before and the temperatures were in the 30s. The 40-year-old man stood holding a sign at the intersection of Memorial Road and May Avenue. He had been there for the past three hours asking for money. His clothes were damp and dirty. They did not keep out the winter chill.
He had no home, very little education, no place to stay, no job, and no prospects. Some would say he had made poor choices and they would probably be right. That added to his shame and misery. He was out of options—bottomed out—with very little money and no credit cards to his name. Without money, there would be no place to eat or rest for the night.
The cars would come off the freeway and stop at the red light. He would try to establish eye contact with as many drivers as possible hoping that someone might give him a little money—maybe he could obtain enough for a private room in some rundown motel across town. Most people turned their heads away and refused to look at him. Some would stare at him with a menacing look. But there were always a few that handed him a dollar or two.
It was just after noon. The large churches on Penn and May Avenues were adjourning and cars were beginning to back-up for several blocks now. Inside the late-model cars he saw families that were warm and out of the cold. Most looked as though they didn’t have a care in the world. He wondered, “What do all these people do?” “How can they afford those nice cars and clothes?” Where do they live?” “I wonder what it’s like to be them?”
As before, most turned their heads and drove on by. There were those that noticed him and had something to say about his plight. Though he couldn’t hear them, some said:
“Wow it’s really cold out there today! You got to feel sorry for that guy standing on the corner!” Others would remark,
“You know what, I’d love to help that guy—but he would just probably go and buy some booze and get drunk. You can’t be too careful nowadays.”
Others remarked that the man was pulling a scam,
“Think of all the cars that give him money—I’ll be he makes more than all of us!”
Still others went by and stated their amazement that an able and healthy bodied man couldn’t find work like everybody else.
“The Bible couldn’t be plainer—If a man won’t work neither let him eat!”
To most cars, he was invisible. The cars went by while the passengers talked with one another about church, where they would eat and what they would bring to the super bowl party in a few hours. They passed by the man and never saw a thing.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:34-40 New International Version (NIV)