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Digitized Discipleship

The Tortoise and the Do Gooder

Posted by Dana Jean on

The Tortoise and the Do Gooder

Not really about a tortoise at all, actually.

Ok so it wasn’t really a tortoise. It was just a nondescript little turtle.

He must have fallen off the curb and when I drove around the bend in the road, I almost hit a turtle. I wasn’t actually sure I missed him, and since there was no traffic, I stopped to check. As I bent down to look, I saw him scrambling toward the curb, but being a little guy, when he reached the curb, he just kept banging into it, unable to get up. So I reached down to pick him up but he tried to bite me and ran back under my car. By now, I’m fully invested in saving this little jerk even if he did try to bite me, so I run around to the other side to stop him from running into traffic. Luckily, he wedged himself under my tire and couldn’t really move, giving me time to grab a bag in my car to reach down and scoop him into it, avoiding his chomping jaws and thrashing head.

(Yes, by the way. I am aware of how ridiculous I must have looked…)

Super pleased with myself, I marched him over to the closest set of bushes and put him gently underneath. The creep was STILL trying to bite me and all I wanted to do was save his miserable little life. AND THEN that ungrateful thing ran out from under the bushes into the middle of the grass, headed towards the street again!! I grabbed him again, turned him around and told him that if he had to run, at least head the other way. I scolded him for trying to bite the hand that was saving his neck and went on my way. I drove away feeling pretty good about saving that turtle.

Until the next day when I saw him squished on the side of the road in the exact spot I had saved him not 24 hours earlier.

A day or so before the whole turtle saga, I got a call from a friend of mine who leads a food ministry that serves the homeless. She was having a rough day, feeling targeted and criticized by the comments of friends of hers who don’t think the poor should benefit from her ministry, that somehow those poor people she feeds deserve to be poor, they don’t deserve free food, that her ministry is enabling them to continue on their path of unworthiness and contributing to their feelings of entitlement. People lob accusations that the folks being served might be drug addicts, alcoholics, criminals, or they might be hoarding the food or taking it to re-sell it.

Shopping tip: Winco has the best price…


If I have to re-sell a 38 cent can of green beans or a single roll of toilet paper, how badly must I need the money?

After consoling my friend and trying to help her put aside those critical opinions that people sometimes so freely offer, I couldn’t help thinking of how many biblical references there are to the poor. There are over 300. Seriously. 300!! It’s not at all unclear what the Bible tells us to do about the poor:

When you give a luncheon, don’t invite friends. Invite the poor, the handicapped, the blind. (Luke 14:12–14)
You’ll be blessed if you are generous and give food to the poor. (Proverbs 22:9)
If there’s a poor person, don’t harden your heart but open your hand and give to him freely. (Deuteronomy 15:7)

Just to name a few.

Not once does the Bible say that the poor are unworthy. Or that they deserve their lot in life. Or that we should turn from poverty and hunger and look the other way.

Neither does it say that we should feed the poor but not the addicted. Or the criminals. Or the hoarders or the people who need to sell a roll of toilet paper for 25 cents. Or the people who believe they are entitled to assistance.

“But wait! It’s not that simple!” (I can hear the objections already…)

What if they’re using the money to buy cigarettes or a 40 oz can of malt liquor??
What if they’re hoarding cans of creamed corn and travel size bars of soap???
What if they think they’re entitled????

Friends, we are only asked to do what Christ himself modeled: to give freely. To be extravagant in our mercy and lavish in our giving. That’s all. The rest is in God’s hands. And would we want that responsibility anyway? No. So, let’s let him handle it!!

If they buy cigarettes with the couple bucks they make from the food they’ve gotten at a pantry, so be it. I wish it weren’t the case, but people have addictions. We cannot fix that.

(But what if they used the money to pay off their kid’s library fine so the kid could get another book at school??)

If they hoard canned foods and come back for more, so be it. I wish their mental health were more stable or that they felt secure enough about their food sources that they didn’t feel compelled to hoard. We cannot fix that.

(But what if they are taking food for multiple families to help their neighbors??)

If they feel entitled to assistance, so be it. I wish they could overcome their hurdles, whatever those things are that hold them back from being a fully contributing member of society. We cannot fix that.

(But what if they are veterans who didn’t fare well after serving our country??)

I don’t mean to sound blasé about the bad choices people make and I am not saying we should be bad stewards of the gifts we share. I’m saying it’s way too easy to judge without knowing people’s stories. It’s way too easy to try to control who gets what based on our own flawed system for judging. But we don’t know God’s plan for the folks we serve. And we don’t know his plan for us in our service to them. We are responsible for the giving, not the receiving. We’re responsible for the offering, not the transformation of that offering.

It’s like that turtle. I did my very best to save him and he died anyway. I did everything I could to help him, and he made the stupid decision to fall off the curb again and get killed. I sure wish he hadn’t made such bad choices. But he did. I cannot fix that. I can give it to Jesus and rest knowing that I did what he asked me to do.

Would I stop my car for that turtle again? You bet. Because I believe in Christ’s power to change even the most resistant hearts. He changes my own every single day.

If there had been a sign like this, he probably wouldn’t have read it.

For those who serve selflessly, my prayer for you is that you may have a thick skin but not a hardened heart.

For the rest of us, my prayer is that we may loosen our fists that grasp for control and open them to give freely to others.