Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Giving Alms to a Murderer

A friend of mine gave breakfast to a mass-murderer. Those are his words. My friend was the Samaritan, but this one he helped was not the beaten and broken one, but the thief who was about to do his evil business.

He was near a church (not mine), getting into his car when a clean-cut Indian walked up to him, early 50s maybe, wearing a button down shirt and clean trousers. "I love Jesus!" he called out. My friend said, "Me too...but I don't work here."

"I was hoping for a cup of coffee," the man said. My friend took the bait.

"Do you want coffee or breakfast or money?"

"Well, I was hoping for some breakfast, really."

So my friend invited him into his car and drove across town to McDonalds. The drifter told his story about going to Anadarko to meet his sister who came into money. The two stood in line at the counter and the man ordered what he wanted. My friend paid and gave the change to the drifter: $1.82.

"Is this it?" the man asked, looking at the money in his hand like it was garbage he had been handed. "Is this all you can spare?" My friend assured him that it was and this transaction was over. He drove off.

But the drifter didn't leave. He stayed around town for a few more days, went to church on the south side of town, was given a ride to the next town, and a few days later showed up here again. But this time he killed a woman in her front yard and then chased down another woman, leaving her body on the front yard too. The police arrested him a day or two later.

Many of his friends reprimanded him. "You'd better be glad he didn't have murder on his mind when he was sitting in your car," one person told him. But I didn't have any words of reprimand. It didn't surprise me in the least that he had given breakfast to a killer, nor do I believe he did anything wrong.

Christ bids us to feed and clothe poor, the hungry, those who beg. Nowhere in Scripture are we told to be discriminate in our giving. "Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys." (Luke 12:33 NKJV). But we are told to be kind to those who are evil; on the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:20-21 NKJV).

St. John Chrysostom said somewhere that we should not discriminate in giving alms, judging the truth and value of the person and their situation, but that we should simply give, and "let God sort it out."

And so my friend did that. He felt uneasy about it, and I can only imagine that feel of a close call...wondering what might have been, what could have been. Of course, if the murderer hadn't been fed that morning maybe something worse would have happened. Maybe he would have started a spree right then and there, and it was only the kindness of strangers giving him rides that stayed the beast within for a while. We can only see one direction, dimly, and do not have the whole story laid before us. We can only do what our Lord would have us do and trust in His goodness.

Lord have mercy on that man and on us all.


  1. Dixie said...

    Your assessment is spot on. Matthew Gallatin has a wonderful podcast on the issue of alms giving here. In it he tells a story about a Bishop (sorry, can't remember exactly who) who was asked by a begger for money. The Bishop's assistant knows the man and warns the Bishop that the beggar will use the money on drink and other inappropriate things. But the Bishop says that it would be his own sin if he failed to give when asked. However, if the man who begs and receives the money sins with it...that is between him and God. I highly recommend a listen to this really clears up the matter and, in essence, comes to the same conclusion you did, Paster Hall.

  2. Randy Asburry said...

    Great story, Christopher! And what a great example for showing charity regardless of the situation, or the potential risk, just as the Samaritan did. Thanks!

  3. William Weedon said...

    I agree with you both on this. If we are called upon to "give as we have been given to" then it cannot be with those kind of strings attached.

  4. Jolene said...

    I'm glad to see your take on this. Made me think about this situation in a different light.....

  5. Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

    I actually had an interesting thing happen to me in this regard. I was in a grocery store parking lot where I was asked for $20 for food. I was shopping with the credit card, so I offered to go inside and get food for him. He said he couldn't wait there that long. I didn't know whether he was right or wrong, so I just did my business and he was gone. Kind of a bummer; he would have been rewarded had he told the truth...

  6. Past Elder said...

    Can't say about the murderer.

    But I can say about the drunkard that this is not the same thing -- he was neither given alms nor asked for any. He was asking for his next drink and found a dupe who fell for his con to get one.

  7. Rev. Eric J Brown said...

    I think what this teaches us is that if you do buy breakfast for a person, don't go to McDonalds. I assume that there has to be some link with what happens later. . . and the McGriddle sandwhich, which could not be designed in this world.

    This Sunday we are getting the 10 lepers text. Reading Luther, one of the things which he emphasized is that the Christian must be prepared for ingratitude. What we need to remember is that our actions are not based upon what we hope will happen (I hope this fellow does nice things if I am nice to him) but rather on what we are called to do by God. Not everything works out well - nor should we expect it too. Nor should this fact prevent us from showing love as we ought.

  8. Doorman-Priest said...

    This is the nature of the Good Samaritan. We are called to love our neighbour and that means everyone according to their need and our capacity to give.


  9. Jolene said...

    Ran across this today in regard to this subject