It’s a cold, cloudy day in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. You’re sitting in a booth at your local Chik-fil-A, enjoying a nice warm meal when the door opens and in walks a man who is obviously homeless – over-filled backpack on his back, holey shoes, dirty, ratty clothes, matted hair. The man walks to the counter and asks if they have any extra food that they’d be willing to give him. Out comes a manager and the homeless man asks his question again. The manager says “Sure! But first you’re going to have to let me pray with you.” The man agrees and they two bow their heads right there in the middle of the restaurant after which the manager gives the man some food and they both go their separate ways. What would you think about this if it were actually you sitting in this resturaunt? Would you think it was a beautiful gesture of kindness on the part of the manager?
This exact scenario played out two days ago. A homeless man was told by a Chik-fil-A manager that the manager would give him food but only if they prayed together first. The manager is having praise heaped on him for his gracious act of kindness. But was it really a gracious act of kindness? What would the manager have done if the homeless man had refused to pray with him? Would he have turned him out into the cold with an empty stomach? And wouldn’t it have been more of an act of kindness if the manager had just given the homeless man some food without the attached caveat?
Requiring the homeless man to pray before being offered food may seem like such a small thing but, if you really think about it, it’s not small at all. Essentially what this manager was doing was withholding food from a cold, starving man until the man agreed to participate in this very public, very unnecessary display of religion. Did the homeless man take anything away from this prayer session or was he doing it because he felt he had no other choice if he wanted food? What the manager essentially did was bribe this man so he could feel better about himself.
This kind of thing is not what Jesus preached. Jesus didn’t say to the leper “I will heal you but you have to bow your head and pray first.” He didn’t say to his disciples who were worried about having enough food to feed the masses “I’ll feed them but only if they prove their faith to me.” No, he just separated the loaves and fishes and fed everyone.
In a statement, Chik-fil-A said that the restaurant’s values are based on “Christian beliefs” and that the manager was acting on those beliefs but how “Christian” is this behavior? How Christ-like is this man being by forcing this homeless man to preform a public prayer before giving him something to eat?
We Christians are not called upon to preform overt gestures of our faith. We’re not called upon to prove how pious and devout we are by public displays of our piety. In fact, in Mathew 6:1, Jesus says “Beware of practicing your righteousness in front of other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in Heaven.”
It is my opinion that this manager would better have shown how Christ-like he was if he’d taken the homeless man in and given him the food without thought or question. He would have better showed the spirit of Christ in himself if he hadn’t made a public display of his piety and forced the homeless man to participate. He can’t say that his actions are based on Christ when he so obviously had an ulterior motive – to prove his faith to the people gathered at his restaurant. Because Christ never made those he healed or fed prove their faith before preforming his miracles and neither should we.
You received without paying, give without pay. ~Mathew 10:8