I was eating at a local diner when a man, a busybody if there ever was one, decided to plop down next to me and start asking questions about the food pantry I run. After explaining how every bit of food and money we give away is donated by generous townsfolk, he asked a question I’ve heard a million times.
“But how do you know the people who come to the pantry deserve the help?”
After swallowing a bite of my sandwich, I said, “You go to church?”
“Yes,” he said, a little taken aback.
“So, you’ve probably heard that bit from Gospel? You know, when the righteous are being welcomed into heaven and God tells them, ‘Take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world? For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, when I was in prison you visited me?’ – you know the rest.”
“Wait a minute….” the man said, starting to look very uncomfortable. But I cut him off.
“And then the righteous said, ‘When did see we see you hungry and feed you? When did we see you thirsty and gave you something to drink? When did we see you in prison?’ And God replied, ‘When you did it for the least of my brethren, you did it for me.’”
“Listen,” the man said. “That’s all well and good. But if people are donating money and food, they need to know who’s getting it. Don’t you think? Lots of lazy people out there, living off the hard work of other people.”
“But did you notice something?” I asked. “Nowhere in that passage does it say that those people – the least of our brethren – got help because they deserved it.”
“So, you do help people who don’t deserve it,’
Channeling Clint Eastwood, I lanced the man with my thousand-yard stare and said, “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.”
“Now if you’ll excuse me,” I said, turning back to my sandwich. “I’ve only got a few minutes for lunch. Have a nice day.”
I listened to man’s clothes rustle as he slid off his stool, the echo of his footsteps on the hardwood floor, and the tinkle of the bells above door signaling his exit. The showdown was over. Looking at my watch, I smiled.
It was High Noon.