Sunday, February 14, 2010

God's Credit Card

note: image copyright Katrin Wegmann (

This is not exactly a new post. I posted it originally on Blest Atheist (some months back, before I had started he H2 Helper). Now it seems that it fits best here. So, here goes.

I imagine the title of this particular posting sounds a bit odd, but perhaps a little explanation will make it seem more reasonable. Several months ago, I blogged about a nagging little concern that I had in the case of people asking for handouts in a post called, "The Art of Panhandling and the Act of Giving." My concern at that time was the thought of giving to people who did not really need the money or to people who were going to use it to make their condition worse (e.g., buying alcohol with it). Over time, both from bloggers' comments to that post and my subsequent reading and discussion with others, I have come to the conclusion that true giving is separated from dictating what a person does with the gift. So, that dilemma for me has been resolved.

There arose another dilemma, though. I do not carry money with me very often because I have so often been mugged and I do not need to because we are a plastic society, pretty much worldwide these days. So, when a panhandler or a person clearly in need has crossed my path, I have often not been able to help (although I would have otherwise been in a position to help). And so, I would ask God to give me another chance to help -- and I would blow it again because once again I would have only plastic with me. And then I would ask for another chance and blow that one and on and on.

On one of those occasions when I was apologizing for losing yet another opportunity to help one of God's people in need and "explaining" (obviously, a superfluous act) that given my plastic-only habit, I am not in much of a position to help anyone, into my head popped the concept that God can use plastic, too. And so I got God a credit card.

It was one of those card offers for a small credit line: $500. One can, with time, increase it as the bank and the customer build a relationship, but $500 seems to be quite an appropriate limit. I never end up putting that much on the card, and with that limit I cannot possibly get in over my head, at least not for long. Not that this could possibly be a worry because God always provides for me in such cases. So, God and I have this deal now. I reserve this card for His purposes. When He puts someone in need in my path, I pay with His card. (Of course, I can use my other cards, too, but they are usually maxed out, so having a card exclusively for God's purposes is very helpful.)

Here are a couple of recent examples of how God has used His card:

(1) I met a man in the parking lot of our local grocery store. He was on his way from Ohio to southern California to move in with his daughter, his luck having run out in Ohio. He was traveling by motorcycle, which requires less gas, and he had enough gas to make it to where he was going, but he had run out of food money the day before and was hungry. He asked for a couple of dollars for a doughnut and coffee. He thought that would carry him through the remaining six hours of his trip. I told him I had no cash but I did have a "special" credit card and if he would pick out what he wanted, not limited to a doughnut and coffee, for lunch and for the road, I would pay for it. So, he did, very judiciously. At the same time, I picked up some strawberries for dessert for dinner for Donnie and me. They were on sale: buy one, get one free. (This kind of surprising sale, just at the right moment, happens so regularly now that I would be surprised if it did not happen.) So, I gave the free strawberries to the hungry man; obviously, the sale was intended for him. As for paying off the credit card bill, the amount was so minor that it was no problem at all; I was able to include it in our food budget for the month without crimping our style, simple as our style tends to be.

(2) A couple of nights ago, about the time that the town was rolling up its sidewalks, I dashed to the grocery store to pick up some supper, our food supplies having become somewhat depleted while I was traveling. There, a young couple came up to me, the girl crying, saying that they were completely out of gas, no one would help them out, and that they were only two hours away from their destination. They looked younger than my kids, and it turns out that they were only 19, traveling across country for the first time to see some childhood friends. They begged for just one gallon of gas, enough to get to a town with more people where they might be able to get more aggregate help. I told them that I had no cash and explained about my special credit card. Asking them to follow me to our only gas station, I used the credit card to fill up their tank. They were ever so grateful -- and extremely relieved. The cost? $36. The next day, one of our church members saw me at daily mass (only when I am in town and can get off work, I go, so it is not all that often, unfortunately). This church member told me that she really needed two copies of my book immediately. (I keep 8-10 books on hand at all times, just in case, and I get them at author's discount.) Once she had paid me for the books and I had ordered the replacements at author's discount, my "profit" was exactly $36, just enough to pay the credit card bill.

So, I ask you: Is there any doubt that God is using "His" credit card?

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