Josh Hicks wrote the following account of an experience he recently had in McDonalds. He has given me his permission to reprint it here:
I was in McDonald’s one morning, enjoying a nice warm breakfast consisting of an Egg McMuffin, Hash Brown, and a Cinnamon melt. I was hooked up to the internet on my laptop by way of my Wi-Fi technology. As I finished my morning feast, I perused through some of the Puritan prayers found in The Valley of Vision, thanking God for His graciousness to me. I then began to read through my daily Bible reading as appointed by the plan I was using. This I also accessed from the internet, in the comfortable setting of this quiet little McDonald’s.
I was thoroughly enjoying this refreshing time when all of a sudden a stench filled the immediate vicinity. It had the smell of “old” and mold. A figure passed by in my peripheral vision. It was a man dressed very shabbily, his clothes tattered and having the appearance of having been caught in a dust storm. I made the assumption that this man was a bum…and this BY CHOICE. I mean, come on, we’re in America. Anyone can get a job in this country. Sure, one may not like the job they’re doing, but anyone – disabled or not – is capable of finding employment.
This guy walks in, has ruined my time of rejuvination, and hasn’t even purchased anything from McDonald’s! No, from some of the money he’s scrunged up somewhere he went and bought a 44 oz drink from EZ Mart. However, the setting in EZ Mart ain’t exactly EZ. So he brings it to McDonald’s and sits in a remote corner where he’s unfettered by party-poopers who might ask him to leave the premises. As I tried to regain focus on the passage I was reading he was making looks in a few different directions. I supposed by the manner in which he was glaring, that people (like me) had been watching him and he was repaying their looks with dissatisfied looks of his own.
Who was this guy who had the nerve to come into McDonald’s, having paid for nothing, even having brought a drink from somewhere else, and yet who was going to use McDonald’s time and space to sit for a while and get out of the cool morning air? I kept trying to read through Galatians 2 but kept glancing back at this man with contempt and indignation. Out of his dingy coat he pulled out a pair of glasses, like he was going to actually use them for something. It was pathetic. As he put them on his face, I noticed there was only one lens. On the other side, the frame had been broken and was missing the rim on the bottom part as well as a lens.
Not only did this man stink, ruin my morning, and loiter at McDonald’s, but he also looked ridiculously foolish wearing these glasses he’d probably found on the street somewhere. He wasn’t even reading anything! Who was he trying to fool? I know these types. They came on hard times once, possibly fell into a deep depression, and have just never picked themselves up from it. Instead of finding work they wallow in their self-pity and beg their way through life. BY CHOICE. I considered all this and I couldn’t even focus on my reading:
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:15-16)
Instantly my heart was CRUSHED. Just as Nathan the prophet told the King of all Israel – the one who lived in lavished riches, carefree from the things of the world, reigning and ruling from his throne – just as he told King David, “YOU ARE THAT MAN!”, I realized I was once just like this bum toward whom I was holding great contempt and unjustified indignation. I had no ‘works’ that ‘justified’ me before God.
I was once a God-hater BY CHOICE. I once loitered God’s creation, my sin bringing a great stench that invaded my surrounding vicinity. Everything I did was BY CHOICE. I was a fool. I enjoyed God’s creation, all the while never giving Him credit or praise for anything (I didn’t have anything to give. It was all filthy, dingy, and without merit). I was a pathetic, shabbily dressed, and drifting soul, befitting of only being left to myself…deserving no one’s help. And yet God in His wonderful mercy and saving grace, and despite my hatred toward Him, took captive my darkened heart. He gave me a ring and He robed me with His righteousness. And He did this BY CHOICE.
Back to that morning at McDonald’s. My heart broke and I began to cry, asking God to forgive my foolishness. Sure, I still thought this man was a beggar and bum by choice. I still truly believe that anyone who wants a job in this land is able to get one, regardless of their circumstances…it just may not be the one they want. But I was the same as a filthy sinner before the eyes of God…choosing my circumstances, blinded to His light. But he saved me. I repented of my ungrounded attitude toward this man, and approached him asking him if I could buy him something to eat. He politely said, “No thanks, but if you could leave me a couple of bucks, I’d be grateful.” This was expected, as I knew what he probably wanted it for. I told him I had no cash, only a debit card. He again expressed his gratitude and I wished him a good day.
God was merciful to me as a dead sinner, and He’s merciful to me now as a Christian who still struggles with hypocrisy…BY CHOICE. Blessed be the Name of the Lord Who saves sinners.
Truly, it is good to remember where we came from to fully appreciate the grace of God that has brought us to where we are today. As Paul reminds the Ephesians, we were all dead in our sins and headed to Hell before God saved us by his grace. It is also good to remember that it was God who brought us out of our spiritual Egypt, and brought into a land with large flourishing cities, buildings we did not build, wells we did not dig, and vinyards and olive groves we did not plant. Throughout the whole Bible, mankind’s total depravity and God’s grace and mercy are seen throughout. How can we possibly boast of our own righteousness or look down on others because of their own lack of righteousness? Truly, when we are faced with the reality of our sin and God’s grace, we have no room to judge others and condemn them. They are condemned already by a just and holy God. But this is the same just and holy God who is sovereign and also shows mercy to those whom he wills. Consider the following passages:
Praise God for his Holiness.
Praise God for his Justice and Wrath which punishes sin.
Praise God for his grace and mercy which forgives sin.
Praise God for where we were in sin, where we are today because of his infinite mercy, and where we will be because of his same mercy and grace. I believe it was all part of his providential plan from the foundation of the world. May we never forget to praise God for his grace instead of judging others for the same depravity that used to identify us in bondage to sin until God saved us.