Published July 5, 2016
"What Do You Need?"
It was a Sunday evening during the summer of 2005. We were at the church setting up for an evening music program. Even though the music equipment had been carted in, the door was still propped open.
A stranger walked in through the door, apologizing for entering. He wore a tank top which showed the tattoo on his arm. He was sweated. He carried a back pack. He seemed uncomfortable, so I doubted he was there for the music program.
I welcomed him and asked if I could help him.
He related a story about his car. The tire had blown so the tire wasn't useable. He didn't have a spare tire. He had walked to a garage near our church, but didn't have the money to pay them to fix it. He didn't have AAA service.
We listened patiently. However, we didn't understand what he was needing.
"Do you need a ride back to your car?" "No."
I finally heard him say he needed to call someone, so I told him to follow me and I'd take him to a phone. I pointed out the phone to him and said he was welcome to use it. "While you make your call, I'll get you some cold water to drink." I could tell he wasn't satisfied with my offer of the phone, although he said the water sounded great.
Finally I asked, "What do you need?"
He stuttered some partial answers, but I still didn't understand.
"What do you need?" I asked again.
"I really need some money."
"I need ten dollars."
"O.K. Come this way and I'll get it for you. Then I'll get your glass of water."
I found Paul and said, "This man needs ten dollars. Please give it to him."
Paul without hesitation reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. Paul knows he is a much easier "touch" than I am. I tend to question whether there is a real need as portrayed. He knew that if I was saying to give the man money, I was confident in my mind that this was a legitimate request. The wallet didn't contain much, but it did have one twenty dollar bill. Pulling out the twenty, he handed it to the man.
"Thanks. I'll leave my wallet here or my bag with tools. My sunglasses are fifty dollar sunglasses. I'll leave them. I'll come back tomorrow and pay your money."
"Don't worry about it. There won't be anyone here tomorrow evening. It's OK."
"I need to pay the money back."
"Come back for a service here at the church sometime. That's what I want in return."
In thinking about the incident, I understood why Jesus asked people more than once, "What do you need?" The story about the car tire blowing and not having AAA service was interesting, but it was peripheral. Those comments didn't tell me what the stranger needed. He needed to state his actual need. We must do the same when we talk with the Lord. We can tell him our problems in detail, but what He needs to know is what we really need. Then the need can be met.
Maybe I was taken in by a "pro" con artist. I don't think so. I really believe there was need (money, phone and water) and we were able to meet those needs.
Later in the evening, I told Pastor Dave about the incident. If the money was returned by a stranger, I wanted our pastor to know the preceding story.
As we discussed the incident, we agreed on one thing. When we get up to heaven, we much prefer the Lord to tell us that we erred on the side of being too gullible rather than that there was a genuine need and we weren't willing to meet it.
We need to meet the needs around us as we are able and we need to tell the Lord our needs, so that out of His bounty, He can meet them.
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