In The Fear of the LORD
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor . . . Isaiah 11:3–4 NIV
She was on the street corner again. The heavy-set lady in the lawn chair, flying her cardboard sign, asking for a handout. Today’s sign read; I Have Cancer. Anything Helps.
Every day, the same time, she’s out there on that same corner with similar pleas as if working her shift at a factory. She’s not the only one. It seems sign flyers are taking over our street corners. Playing on our heartstrings.
Or as is the case with me, making us more callous. Seeing someone flying signs at intersections triggers the “Play” button on my memory’s tape recorder. “Pay them no mind,” says the seasoned voice of a deceased hobo friend who considered ‘those kind’ the lowest of the low. “They’re just getting money for their next high.”
Intersections with traffic controls are the worst because people are stuck at red lights having to look at them. I dare not make eye contact lest I be obligated to lend a helping hand. So, I read phone texts; I stare off into the distance. All the while, keeping in my peripheral the red-to-green changing of the light so I can blast out of there.
Way below standard for a Christian who’s found, in her years of involvement with inner-city ministries, that many poor are for real and are far richer and wiser in many respects than me.
But these . . . these sign flyers, why do they trigger in me such knee-jerk skepticism? Surely, they’re not all of them drug addicts and scammers. The lady in the chair, she looks innocent enough with her floppy sun hat on hot days and her umbrella when it's rainy. I have to ask myself, “What if she really does have cancer?”
Then the voice of the one more experienced in these matters speaks up again. “Don’t trust them. They’re scammers.” My voice of reason agrees. “You give to these people, and you’ll be supporting their bad habits. They call that enabling, you know.”
We can’t rescue every poor person we see; I realize that. Even Jesus didn’t commit Himself to certain ones. He didn’t commit, because He knew their thoughts and ill intentions. [i]
Praise God, He knows sincere hearts as well and doesn’t automatically write people off as easily as I do. If that were the case, the man with the Legion of demons would’ve been sunk. [ii] This guy, demon possessed a long time according to Luke 8, was way beyond playing on people’s heartstrings. He was ostracized from the community, clearly beyond all help. The shackles binding his feet; he broke into pieces. His handcuffs, he wrenched apart like they were made of thread. He was the genuine article, I tell you. A true cast off of society, a dead man living (if one can call it living) among the tombs.
And always, night and day, he (the man) was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. [iii] Society saw this man as a crazed incorrigible. Out of sight, out of mind was their solution. Make no eye contact, lest they be obligated to help. Jesus knew him as one tormented and in agony. That’s why He went out of His way to meet him. That man, held captive inside his demon-infested body, was on the brink of making his first debut into society as one clothed and in his right mind. [iv]
When he (the man) saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees before him in homage. [v] Jesus, being who He is, saw the man’s yearning desire to be free long before the man saw Him. Who, but Jesus, would’ve seen that far in advance?
Correct interpretation of this verse might say, “Of course, the guy fell on his knees. Verse 8 says that Jesus was commanding the unclean spirit to come out of him—the whole cotton-picking Legion of them! [vi] What choice did he have but to bow?” At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow [in submission], of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth . . . [vii]
I’d like to think instead, that unclean spirit or not, the man knew he was in a battle for his life. His will, no matter the straitjacket it was in, made a choice that no demon in hell could stop. He saw from a distance the Light of freedom and ran for it. When he fell to his knees before Jesus in worshipful respect, his spirit broken and contrite—his demons simultaneously had to fall to their knees in tormented submission. Then evacuated as they were commanded. [viii]
Lord I ask, for myself and for the body of Christ, a fresh dose of The Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. May we not be governed by what we see with our natural eyes. Let the fear of the Lord—the very air in which Jesus lives and breathes—be the same air from which we draw our breath, so that we too might rightly discern those whom society ignores or writes off as unredeemable. [ix]
In Jesus’ Name.
[i] John 2:24–25; Matthew 9:4 [ii] Mark 5:1–20 [iii] Mark 5:5 [iv] Mark 5:15 [v] Mark 5:6 [vi] Mark 5:8–9 [vii] Philippians 2:10 AMP; Psalm 66:3 [viii] Matthew 5:7–13 [ix] Isaiah 11:3, Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers