Last week, I republished a column describing a missed opportunity to help a mother attempting to buy $7.43 worth of baby food in a grocery store. There are no acceptable excuses. I messed up. The column serves as an ongoing reminder to be more vigilant for the opportunities God gives to help someone in need. I vowed to do better.


Several years ago, the phone rang in my office: “Do you have church tonight?” Being somewhat of a salesman, I immediately began describing all the exciting services and activities occurring but he interrupted me. “My wife and I would like to come. What time?”


After giving him more information, he then asked: “Can you pick us up?”


I hesitated. Not being a question I anticipated, my eagerness switched to suspicion: “I’m not sure.” I replied. “Where are you?”


The location described was another city, miles away. He and his wife were standing in a phone booth just outside a hotel. They had no car and were obviously looking for more than the location of a worship service. We had no transportation available and I was hesitant to commit the life of one of our drivers to a mystery voice on the phone who was sounding increasingly suspicious.


So, I finally said: “I would love to help you but we have no one available to pick you up. I’m sorry.” After a few more minutes of conversation, he thanked me and hung up.”


At first, I was relieved but that reaction was soon replaced with guilt. Bible verses singed my conscience.


“Dear brothers and sisters, what’s the use of saying you have faith if you don’t prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can’t save anyone. Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, “Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well”-but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, it isn’t enough just to have faith. Faith that doesn’t show itself by good deeds is no faith at all-it is dead and useless.” (James 2:14-17)


Strong and clear language:


  • Faith doesn’t mean much if not backed up by action.
  • When someone needs food or clothing you don’t just say, “God bless you!”
  • Faith without good deeds is dead and useless.


Had I refused to pick up a couple who genuinely needed help simply because of inconvenience? Could this be another opportunity from God to help someone in need? Was I guilty once again of displaying faith with no action? Yet, there was a very real chance the voice on the other end of the phone was a scam. There was also the risk of picking up strangers who could be dangerous.


Interestingly enough, I would soon know more because later that same evening while teaching a Bible study in walked the couple who claimed to have called hours before. They joined our group and when the class was over, everyone but the couple left. So, we talked.


After the phone call, they found someone who gave them a ride and dropped them off at our church. They recently moved back to this area after he lost his job: Now they were here with no car, not even a license to drive, virtually no possessions and no where to go.


Once again, I faced a dilemma. Was this a God given opportunity to help a couple in need or a slick scam with me as the mark?


“Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing and you say, “Well good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?”


Now, it was my turn to respond.


Next: There are more surprises in this true story so don’t miss the exciting conclusion.


How would you respond to this couple in need? How do you feel God would lead you to action? Please email me at with your answers.


Keary Kincannon · June 18, 2012 at 12:51 pm

It is not always easy to tell if someone in this situation is real or if this is a scam. Sometimes those scamming have hit other churches in the area. Call your clergy friends to see if they know of the couple. Sometimes local social service agencies will let you know if they know a client without revealing what they know. This will let you know if they are in the system of support. They often hear about the scammers and should warn you if they they know something.

But when all is said & done though I’d rather be scammed than turn away someone in real need. I know I have been scammed many times. When we meet our Maker, the scammers, not me will have to answer to God. I’d rather put out $75 for a night in a motel than learn that a mother & her 2 year-old slept behind a local gas station as happened around the corner from us. When she came to us we helped her with a couple of nights in a motel & food until we got the County Social Services involved.

    larrydavies · June 24, 2012 at 9:31 am

    I could not agree more but our challenge is to keep trying.

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