I’ve heard it said that character is who you are in private, not what you are in public. This sounds fairly reasonable to me, but, unfortunately I think I may have found a loophope. You see, the other day I did something privately that I would never do publicly. So, in order to redeem myself, I have decided to make my private failure a public one. As twisted as this logic may sound, I think there may be some truth to what I just said-but I digress.
Yesterday, after driving through a toll booth in Chicago, I did something that Christians should not do. I lost my temper. I pulled over to the side of the road and I slammed my fist against the steering wheel as hard as I could. After apologizing to my wife, I began to think about what made me so upset.
The incident that prompted my road rage was passing through a toll booth thinking that I could use a credit card (I have done that many times because usually the toll is around $3.00 in most places I go). First of all. I didn’t know there was going to be a toll booth. Secondly, I figured that I could use my card if there was a toll booth. Thirdly, I didn’t have any change and, unfortunately, in this case, the toll was only 80 cents.
The jerk behind the counter gave me no mercy. To him, I was a pennyless low-lifer mooching my way through life at other people’s expense-at least that was the impression I got during our 20 second encounter.
So why did I lose my temper? It wasn’t because of the huffy toll booth operator. It was myself that I was mad at. I was humiliated that I couldn’t scrape enough change for something so simple.
I ask that you, my readers, think about this incident for a moment. If I, a Christian, could lose my temper out of humiliation for not scraping together 80 cents to pay a toll booth operator, just imagine how millions of men and women around the world feel living in slums and barely surviving? Do you think they feel humiliated? Heck yes, they do. Even nature itself teaches that fathers have an instinct to want to provide for their families. I wonder how men who live in cardboard boxes feel when they are unable to provide a decent living for their wives and children?
Furthermore, how do you think the masses of people around the world feel when they watch films about life in America while they are barely able to put food on the table? Do you think that they might feel angry, humilitated, robbed, or dare I say…cheated? My point here is not to say that Americans are to blame for the world’s poverty. I am absolutely unqualified to make such judgments. My point is to take you into the minds and hearts of the world’s poor. I wonder if, in their minds, we are the toll booth operators of the world.
The problem with poverty is not its physical effects, but its emotional and spiritual effects. Poverty is the ultimate dehumanizer because it cuts to the heart of human self-worth. This is why it is all the more remarkable that Jesus uttered these four words that have changed human history “Blessed are the poor.” For Jesus, value comes not from one’s net worth or even the ability of one to provide for himself. For Jesus, value comes from being loved by God-something that all can claim-whether rich or poor.
There are some who are poor because of laziness, but there are multiplied others who are poor because of oppression. Still others are poor because of just plain bad luck. Yes. I said the word “luck”. Even the Bible says, “Time and chance happen to all.” If we Christians can learn to see the poor of this world through the eyes of Jesus, then the world would be a much better place.