Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” (Acts 3:6)
The response above from Peter takes place in a street encounter with a guy who needs help. The man, a beggar who has been lame since birth, has spent his whole life asking for help from passers by. Unable to work and support himself, he has relied on the goodness of others to survive.
Seeing Peter come toward him, the beggar does what he has done so many times before. He asks for money. Hoping for a few coins in his cup, he calls out to Peter and asks him for a gift. Peter declines, saying he doesn’t have any money with him. We’ve probably all been in a similar situation where someone on the street has asked us for money and we either didn’t have any or simply didn’t want to give them any. Many of us have felt awkward and wanted to get away as quickly as possible – not making eye contact from a car as someone with a sign sits on the corner by a traffic signal or walking quickly past with a wave of the hand and a brief, “sorry” or “not today.”
This is where Peter surprises us. It isn’t that Peter doesn’t want to engage this guy. In fact, rather than doing the simple coin in the cup to buy freedom from the beggar, Peter stops and talks to him. He then says that there is something he can do for the man and offers healing from the lameness that holds the man captive. The man gets up and with joy and amazement praises God.
All of us are confronted with choices all the time. Sometimes, what people ask of us isn’t what we can offer. But that doesn’t free us from caring and relating to people as human beings. Each person we meet was created in God’s image and is important. When we fail to honor that in people, we fall short of God’s desire for our lives.
In addition, all of us have things we can offer and things we can do. While we often don’t want to be bothered or want to keep things for ourselves, each day we are asked to be grateful for what we have and to be generous in how we share it. Peter shows us what generous living looks like. The gifts and assets God has given to each of us can be used to bring life and wholeness to others. Done well, they too will give thanks and praise God with us.