I hesitate to pen this post because it is about a personal experience, and I would rather talk about what happened to you or someone else than myself. But what I am about to share did happen and I am still trying to make some sense of it, so I am going to put it out there and, in so doing, would welcome your response if you have any thoughts to pass along.
One day in late April, I was alone in our driveway planting a few flowers in some flower boxes. My back was turned toward the street, and I was facing the house, when, though not aware of any other presence, I turned to face the street and discovered that a late model suburban vehicle had eased into our driveway and was parked a few feet from where I was standing. The driver, when our eyes met, quickly said, “I am from Dubai and I have lost my billfold; I need help getting to California.” He had a pretty thick accent, looked like he was from the Middle East, and he was well dressed. Immediately, as I walked toward the car to talk with him, he held up a gold necklace and, on the necklace, a beautiful gold ring. He said, “I need money to get to California. I lost my billfold. Here, you take this (the gold jewelry), and when I get home, I will send you the money and you can send this back to me.”
I held both hands up, palms facing the stranger, indicating that I would not do what he had proposed. He rolled down the back passenger window and I saw a teenage girl with a phone or computer in her hand; there appeared to be others in the car, his family, though I did not carefully look at each person. The girl looked well dressed, never took her eyes off the phone or computer in her hand, and the man continued to plead. “Here,” he said, taking a gold Rolex watch off his wrist, “Take this; this is a $25,000 watch.” Again, I held both hands up, pushing back, saying as I did, “I cannot do that.” He said, “I need $300-400 dollars; you can give me that. I just need to get to California.” He continued “begging” me to give him some money, and if I understood him correctly, he even mentioned that I could give him a credit card to use. I was adamant in refusing to touch the gold chain or watch. I have to admit, the man, in a beautiful late model suburban Yukon, looked every bit legitimate, and I really thought at that time that his story was real.
Of course, I have thought that on other occasions, such as the time I received a call one afternoon from a man who, in a dead earnest voice, and an Irish accent, said he was in the library of the University of Indianapolis (close to our church) reading the gospel of John, and he wanted to know if I could tell him how to be saved. I made arrangements to pick him up, brought him to my church office, and explained the gospel to him. On our knees, he prayed, even with a tear or two, and I was sure he had accepted Christ as Savior. He was well groomed, with a suit and tie. It was not until I was taking him back to the library that he told me he was a clock master, and the clock he had been working had taken him longer than he had anticipated. He was, consequently, in a bind for money as his rent was past due. I asked him how much he needed, and it was $125. This was probably 20 or 25 years ago and I did not usually have an extra $125 at the end of the month, but I did on that day. So I went to the bank, made the withdrawal, took him downtown where he said his landlord had an office, accompanied him to the 4th floor of the downtown Indy office building and then, acquiescing to his request that I let him talk to and pay his landlord alone, I waited. When he returned, I took him back to the library, got his home address and made arrangements to visit him that evening for a Bible Study. I had barely gotten back to my church office when it dawned upon my feeble mind that maybe I should drop by the address he gave me, also close to the University, just to confirm that I could find it. A sick feeling began to take over my stomach when, yes, you are probably ahead of my story, I could not find the address. I had been conned and what a slick job it was, compete with suit and tie and tears! As most pastors have probably likewise experienced, that was not the first time that I had been taken, nor the last; but I think it hurt so badly because he was such a good actor. It just hurt! And, still does to think about it!
Back to the Dubai gentleman. After prayer meeting the night before, Ellen had come home and we discussed the Pastor’s midweek Bible study. It was on the subject of love and how we can and should demonstrate Christ’s love to a needy world. I had not heard the lesson because of my semi-quarantine due to cancer chemo treatments, so she shared with me the essence of the lesson, and we had a good discussion. How do you consistently, biblically, and in the spirit of Christ, demonstrate God’s love to a needy, hurting world?
So, the next morning, the aforementioned incident occurred. Was it a test? I have not doubted that for whatever purposes, known only to Him, it was ordained of God. It happened so suddenly. There was no way that I could have contemplated what I would do or what and how I should respond. It was split-second decision-making time. No friend, no counsellor, no wife to consult. Bang. There he was, a foreigner in a strange land if one could believe his story, desperate, pleading for help. I told him that to give him hundreds of dollars was not something I could do. I also told him I was a preacher, and he said, “Jesus will help you.”
So, there you have it. You may be wondering about now, “OK, Pastor Slutz, what did you do?” Well, that’s what I wanted to ask you. What should I have done? What would you have done, if you could somehow recreate in your mind the same circumstance? A well-dressed, Middle Eastern man who said plainly as he pleaded, “I am a wealthy man,” and buttressed his claim with a supposed $25,000 wrist watch? You are a Christ one. Do good to all men, Paul admonished. This stranger knows you are a follower of Jesus. You make the call.
I do distinctly remember praying that morning, at the breakfast table before eating, asking God to guide us and to give us wisdom in all that we would do during the day. I distinctly remember that because I do not usually ask God for wisdom at the breakfast table before eating!
So, what would you have done? What should I have done?
“For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (James 2:13)