Two Sundays ago two panhandlers approached me. They were a father-daughter team, of Latino descent. The daughter stopped me after I had just purchased dinner.
Sir could I ask you a question? My father just got back from the hospital and he has a broken leg. We need gas money to get to the hospital to do chemotherapy. He has leukemia. Sir please it’s desperate. He’s going to die - it’s life or death! Please sir. You can keep my phone. My Mercedes is just over there.
And so on so forth.
After a confusing mess of complaints, of deathly ailments and plausible but unlikely circumstances, I asked, ‘Well how do I know this isn’t a scam?’
Truth is I didn’t. I wasn’t sure. It seemed like a scam. They looked kinda like druggies. But how I actually know what druggies look like? How do I actually know if they were scamming me? As a Christian, shouldn’t I believe in the best of people? What would Jesus do?
For whatever reason - a voice in my head just kept on shouting THIS IS A SCAM THIS IS A SCAM THIS IS A SCAM. I’m not sure if that was the Holy Spirit speaking to me, or just a more intelligent part of my subconscious voicing its concern. Eitherway, I walked away, apologizing, telling them that I’m not sure if it’s a scam.
The supposedly near-death leukemia-filled and broken-legged father shouted, “Can you believe this guy?! C’mon” as I walked away with conscience irked, slightly ashamed, and somewhat confused.
Anyway. So I bumped into the same father-daughter dual this past Sunday while I was waiting in line at the ever popular Diddy Riese Cookies. The father daughter team sauntered to the front of the line (i.e. cutting 15 mins of wait) and simply ordered. Amidst the confusion that is Diddy Riese no one in the front of the line protested or noticed.
He was walking. His leg was not broken. The father exhibited none of the bodily ailments he claimed just a week ago. At that moment, it was clear that they were a team of scammers, preying on the kindness of others. And they almost scammed me last week.
Man, I was pissed. A roaring wave of self-righteousness surged through me. These evil asshole! These scammers and scoundrels. The piss of the world! I thought about how I was going to humiliate them. Should I shout aloud about his healthy legs? Should I tell all the rest of the customers about these scammers, lest they prey upon them too? Should I walk up to them and stare then throw my ice cream and cookies at them?
Self-righteousness. What a tantalizing emotion, as strong as lust and perhaps as fun too. How it grasped me in so few seconds, how it made me feel so moral and good and superior. For those few seconds I felt worlds better than the sinners these scammers were.
Then an annoying thought occurred to me. What would Jesus do? He probably wouldn’t be as pissed. He’s remarkably patient with sin, so I’ve learned in my own experience. He would probably walk up to the family dual with Diddy Riese ice cream and cookies in hand. He’d probably smile, say something loving but convicting.The two would see their own sins and repent, or something like that. He could judge, but he probably won’t.
So instead I just stood in line, unable to decide on what to do while trying to keep Christ’s influence at bay. Self-righteousness is fun and feels good. Jesus, c’mon, don’t ruin my fun.
In the end, I ended up doing nothing but gave a few stares. Not sure if I’ll buy the two ice cream and cookies the next time I see them, but hopefully I’ll be more Christ-like, somehow.