At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”
Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.
The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”
- Acts 10:1-6
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
- Ephesians 4:25-28
“It will not bother me in the hour of death that I have been ‘had for a sucker’ by any number of imposters; but it would be a torment to know that one had refused even one person in need.”
- C. S. Lewis, Letters To An American Lady
In looking at the Christian life of C. S. Lewis, he tried to live up to what he told the American Lady. In fact, his volume of letters to her over many years showed that commitment. She had written. He replied. Not all his replies were from his hand, but most were. Most “celebrities” get a mountain of fan mail. Some of these famous people ignore the mail. Some have personnel that sort through it, giving the basic copy of a signed photo, not the signed photo itself. Rarely do these secretaries filter something to the famous person, but C. S. Lewis did the best he could to correspond, that with his busy schedule of writing and teaching.
But I am sure he had his nightmares in looking back on this statement in a letter.
Can you close your eyes and remember the person that you drove past on the highway, too busy to stop, or were you afraid of the crazy ax murderer pretending to hitch a ride? In C. S. Lewis’ day, we stopped to pick up hitchhikers if there was room in the car. When I was in Germany, it was tantamount to an order from the battalion commander that we would pick up people in uniform between our kaserne (barracks area) and the PX / Commissary complex, driving in either direction. Most of those from buck private to Specialist fourth class had no vehicle and the trek was a few miles, just to get a new toothbrush.
But since those years, we give to a few panhandlers, but not all. Some people take Jesus’ words literally when he said after the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, that when you do for the least of these, you are doing unto Me. They think that Jesus is in human form, testing us, to see if we will show compassion. I do not think this interpretation is correct, but in our attitude, it might as well be the correct interpretation.
And remember something else that C. S. Lewis wrote:
“The proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift.”
- C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves
Our government’s social programs are all designed to have the recipient continuing to hold out his/her hand, creating many other problems. Thinking back on the first quote, have we really helped the person in need?
I am getting a little slower. We have limited means, and limited time, especially considering my wife’s dialysis schedule. But if I can help someone by writing encouraging words, as C. S. Lewis did to countless people around the world, I want to continue. If I am unfaithful in that calling, as Lewis says above, it would be a torment.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.