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James and James

Recently while at a restaurant, I saw a man walking up and down the street with a gasoline can. I went outside to give him some money. While searching through my wallet, he interrupted me, saying, “Wait, please don’t give me any money just yet. Let me just tell you about some of what is going on with me.” For several minutes I listened intently while friends waited patiently inside the restaurant.

He described the hardships of finding a job, finding a proper home and caring for his young daughter. He repeatedly thanked me for continuing to listen. Through this encounter I sensed God teaching me something fresh about ministry. At first I saw only a need, now I saw a person. At first I heard James’ needs, now I listened to his story. At first I was impersonal, now I ministered personally. With this new lens, I tried my best to encourage him. He thanked Jesus for sending me to him and showing him special attention.

James 2:3-4 says, “If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

Dismissing James’ request to listen would have been insulting, tantamount to saying “You stand there,” or “Take this money but not my time.” Through James I learned to be ready to meet people eye to eye with genuine compassion so they can recognize God’s movement in their heart. We impact people in Jesus’ name not merely by doing good, but by connecting well.

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