Matthew 5: 39-42
I was a little late for an appointment when I saw the man holding a sign that read, "Feed Me." I thought of my Wednesday Devotional on May 17 entitled, "The Risky Business of Helping a Shark," and I pulled into a nearby parking lot.
In that devotional, I wrote about a man who helped a beached shark return to the ocean by holding it for several minutes while the shark acclimated to the water again. This man went the extra mile to help the shark. Was this my turn to go the extra mile?
The man on the street corner was named Ron, and he looked a lot like the man pictured in this post's photo, except with 25 additional years of age, wear, and tear. I introduced myself and offered him two pieces of paper: One was currency, and the other was a local list of food banks, shelters, and other services for the homeless, a printout I keep in my car.
As we were talking, Ron shared that his root problem was medical. Circulation issues and asthma made it hard to sleep and hard to walk. Ron said he was a good dishwasher, but he couldn't endure an eight-hour shift.
I flipped the listing over to show him four medical clinics that help the poor. I tried to call one number but only got a recording. Ron said he would call again from his phone.
After perhaps ten minutes, I had to go. I had an appointment, you know.
Let me ask you: Did I go the extra mile or not? By extra mile, I'm referring to a passage from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus starts talking about how to deal with people who are harsh to us and lands in another space of how far we should go to help others. Matthew 5: 39-42 reads:
But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
So, let's discuss how far it is to go the extra mile.
Was there more I could have done? I could have driven Ron to one of the clinics after my appointment, because he was still on that corner. I could have gotten Ron's phone number and followed up. In other words, I could have helped him a little longer, like the man who took his time helping the shark.
Let me be clear: Any kindness is good. I don't want to discourage anyone from helping by saying they're not doing enough. While Ron and I were talking, a young mother holding her little girl came out of a sandwich shop and handed him lunch. Fantastic!
Our giving is shaped like a pyramid, according to my video series, "The Legacy Tree: A Christian Model for a Life of Significance." At the bottom is everyday kindness, like the young mother provided. Since the base of the pyramid is the largest, we should do most of our giving there.
Then the pyramid goes up. At each level, there is more we can do - an extra mile we can go. We are able to execute fewer opportunities as we go up the pyramid, because they become costlier in terms of time and resources. After all, it would be impossible to get intimately involved with every needy person you encounter.
We must discern when to give from the base of the pyramid (donate a sandwich), when to ascend a little (find out the problem and point toward solutions, such as medical clinics), and when to do even more (drive someone to the clinic). Through a prayerful attitude and the motivation of the Holy Spirit, we can recognize when to do the quick thing and when to do harder things. We must purposefully make sure to include some mix of harder things in our giving.
How far is your extra mile?
For more on the Pyramid of Providing and other ideas on giving, please consider "The Legacy Tree: A Christian Model for a Life of Significance." This video study offers a deep dive into the way we define ourselves, give ourselves, and replenish ourselves in serving God's kingdom. Please visit https://www.ceciltaylorministries.com/the-legacy-tree .