Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

June 24, 2018


The angel said, “Give him his dollar back”


            I cringe every time I am reminded that obesity is a major problem in our country. Like many of my fellow Americans, I am overweight. It has been a problem for me most of my adult life.

            I rationalize by saying that my mama was a good cook and I married a good cook. Though my family was not rich, we always had plenty of food on the table. I grew up a Methodist and Methodists have a knack for cooking delicious meals. We are the best at including covered dish suppers in the Lord’s work. And I love to eat.

            Yet as a Christian I am disturbed by the fact that in our world 15 people die every minute from starvation. Let that sink in: every minute of every day 15 people starve to death for lack of food.

            It gets worse. Obesity is such a problem for Americans that we spend 33 billion dollars every year on weight loss products. Think about it: 33 billion dollars. Staggering!

            In the Bible God reminds us many times that he expects his people to help the poor. If you want God to bless you, then care for the poor. Solomon said it well in Proverbs 22:9 – “The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.”

But helping the poor is not just something we need to do, it is absolutely necessary since God has commanded us to do it. Jesus even tied this in with the final judgment. Once you have read what Jesus said, you can never forget his words: “As you did unto the least of these, you did unto me.” And “the least of these” are all around us!

            So what does this mean for me? It means that I must find ways to do what I can to help the poor. I want to be more like my friend Ken Austin, a pastor whose life is devoted to helping the poor in West Montgomery. I want to be a member of the small army of people who are helping Ken to help the poor find not only food but mercy and hope in the midst of poverty.

            I want to help Alan Brewer and Preston Gotthard help the poor in Honduras. I want to help Alfred Kalembo and Jon Mark Glenn help the poor in Zambia. I want to help Mark Wittig help the poor in Colombia. People who are in the trenches need old folks like me to come alongside them, in whatever small or large ways we are able.

            Jimmy Carter tells a joke about a churchgoing man who died and went to heaven. Saint Peter said, “I’m glad you taught Sunday school for years, but what have you ever done for poor people?” The man replied, “Back in the Depression, my neighbor’s house burned down. I had a table on my back porch that we didn’t need so I gave it to him.” Saint Peter asked how much the table was worth. The man said, “About fifty cents.”

            Saint Peter said, “Any other times?” The man replied, “Yes, once a homeless family came by asking for food. I gave them two sandwiches and a glass of tea.” Saint Peter said, “That was nice. How would you value that?” The man said, “At least fifty cents.”

            Turning to an angel, Saint Peter said, “Go down to earth and see if what he claims is true.” The angel returned and said, “Yes, he really did those things.” Saint Peter asks the angel, “What do you think we should do with this man?” The angel replied, “Give him his dollar back and tell him to go to hell!”

            That preposterous story can remind us to look for ways more often than twice in a lifetime to share what we have with the poor. There is no perfect plan; it is simply a matter of caring enough to share.

            Almost every community in America has a ministry like Meals on Wheels. Volunteers prepare meals and other volunteers deliver the meals to hungry people. I read about a 101-year-old Florida man who still drives and twice a week he delivers meals on wheels to hungry people in his hometown.  

            What can you do? Better think of something before you run into that tough angel at the pearly gates. + + +