24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it. 26 For what will it benefit someone if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will anyone give in exchange for his life? Matthew 16:24-26 CSB
Hey guys welcome back to the PSALMS to God podcast. So funny story: I was in the process of organizing my laptop and the files on my laptop, and I found this episode that I recorded months ago—months ago—Like probably around the time that I was starting the podcast, and that I never finished it. It's just like a half done episode, with kind of random notes and thoughts that I was trying to put together. And when I looked at it today, I was like "That was a great idea! It was a great episode. Why didn't I finish that?" I have no idea why I didn't finish it, and I have no idea why I was trying to organize files on my computer today, but I'm going to take it that was the Holy Spirit leading me back to that episode and telling me that I needed to record it and talk to you guys about it. So here we are.
An Occurrence at Publix (00:02:21)
We're going to talk about Matthew 16:24-26, in the context of an experience that I had at the beginning of the year. So sometime in January, I was shopping. I went to Publix to get something—pretty sure based on the date that I wrote down that I was buying something for a potluck at the church that I attend. And when I went to Publix—there's a Publix nearby me that I called "The Shady Publix." Every time I go to this Publix, something weird happens; I do not like going to this Publix. I feel like... I just feel uncomfortable going to this Publix by myself at any time, because something weird always happens. So I refer to it as "The Shady Publix," but "The Shady Publix" was the most logical Publix for me to go to that day because it's actually near my job and in the direction that I was driving, for me to go to any other grocery store or any other Publix would have been going out of the way, and that just didn't make sense. So, I had stopped there on the way back home. And when I stop there, soon as I pulled into a parking space, this man approached my car, and he came all the way up to the window—like the driver side window—and he started talking. And I was weirded out to say the least. Like I did not understand why he was coming up to my car, and why he was starting to talk to me. Like not even like, "Oh I let you get out of your car and approached you in the parking lot." Like he legit walked straight up to my car. I could not open the car door to get out had I wanted to, because he was standing like directly in front of the car, and so he basically said that he ran out of gas. And that's all he said. He didn't ask for money. He didn't ask for gas. He didn't ask for a ride to the gas station. He didn't ask for a phone to call a friend to take him to the gas station. Like to this day, I don't really know what his intention was. Like I don't know what he was...why he was approaching me.
And in the moment, I was like this is super weird. This is super sketch. First of all, I don't look like the person that you should be approaching for this problem. And what I mean by that is: so when I was in South Carolina, I remember I had this situation where I needed a pocket knife. I was trying to open something and I felt like a pocket knife would be of assistance. I didn't have one. And I was walking across the campus at the university I went to, and I saw this this group of guys. They were dressed in camouflage and they looked like they did some hunting in their spare time, and I made the assumption that they would have a pocket knife, so I approached them and asked them for their help. I did not go to the girl that was walking by that was in heels and a dress and was like fully made up, because she didn't seem like she would have a pocketknife. Now that's very stereotypical she could have very well had a pocketknife; they might not have had a pocket knife, but the odds were that these gentlemen who were dressed like they go hunting frequently were more likely to have a pocketknife than this woman who is dressed like she was about to go give a presentation and would probably only have like a pencil or a USB drive or something. It's just there are certain people... Like, I mean its basically like if I'm trying to reach something on the top shelf and I go to somebody who is shorter than me for assistance, that doesn't make sense. I would approach somebody who's very tall to try to help me.
And so in the situation I'm like I don't know why you're coming to me I have a very small car. I don't look like I would have a gas can in the back of my car. My car is very old; it's not like I look like I have a lot of money, or I could just be, you know, throwing money at you. You know... It just seems like a really weird situation. So I was very, very hesitant, and the demeanor that I probably had was not a very pleasant or positive one, because I was just like "Please leave." That's what I was thinking in my head.
Biblical Responses (00:06:52)
But after the situation, the verses that I read in the beginning (Matthew 16:24-26) were the first things that popped into my head. And I was asking myself, "Why is it that we allow ourselves to be so afraid of other people?" And I know that... I know the answer: the media and what happens. Our society is completely screwed up. It is very possible that had I opened the door, or rolled down the window, or attempted to give this man some money, or let him borrow my phone, or whatever, that he might have reached in and tried to kidnap me. He might have tried to kill me. He might have tried to rob me. There is a very high probability, and considering where I live it's even higher of a probability that that could have just been somebody trying to mug me, but at the same time that also could have been an angel giving me a test. That... It could have been somebody, a genuine person, in need of help.
And I think the reason our society has the problems we have is that we don't help the people who need help, because we're afraid that they're one of these other people who don't need help. And you know the truth is, in this verse we often think about this in the context of martyrdom—like someone has asked you do you believe in God and you said yes even though it might cause problems. Basically, like how Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (better known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) had to make the decision not to kneel for the statue. The king had already said if you didn't kneel in front of the statue he was going to kill you. So it's basically a public declaration of their faith in God when they decided not to bow; and they knew that there would be negative consequences—and of course God covered them in that situation. But really this verse in Matthew is talking about so much more than that. It's about not being afraid to do the right thing, regardless of the consequences. It's not just saying "I believe in God" and necessarily making that public declaration in such an obvious and overt manner. It's also about the actions that speak to your faith in God.
So in that moment, I did not know what his intentions were. I didn't know if he was out to do some harm to me or if he was genuinely in need. And at the end of the day, I can't control his actions. I can only control my actions. I can't control whether he was going to try to mug me or whether he was going to try to rob me or whether he was genuinely seeking help, but I can control whether my intention was to do good to him or whether my intention was to ignore any sort of harm that might have been coming towards him or any sort of trouble that he may have been in. And what's even more ironic about all of this is that I just did a podcast episode where the verse that I used to basically pull the episode together was Jeremiah 17:9-10, and the second part of that, verse 10, it talks about how God judges us based on our actions not on our heart—because the heart does crazy things! So remember that when y'all out here saying "God knows my heart." The heart is wicked and deceitful, but it's our actions that really speak volumes because that's what we can control.
A lot of times in moments like this we let fear keep us from doing something positive or from doing good. And that's a problem, because regardless of what was needed in that situation, regardless of whether I actually had money to give him or not—I didn't 'cause I never have cash—but even down to the demeanor that I had, the way I responded to that person, that is very significant, because that's a human being. Whether I decided to try to do something to help this person monetarily, whether I was going to give them my phone, whatever I decide to do or not to do, I did at least owe it to him to be polite, to show a Godlike character when responding to him, and I didn't do that because I let fear dictate my actions. And fear is not of God. God does not want us out here being afraid to do good, and that's something we should definitely be talking about as we go through our walk and our journey with Christ.
Wrap Up (00:12:22)
So I'm curious what you guys would have done in that situation and how you would've felt about it. Would you have stopped to talk to the person? Would you have tried to help them out? Would you have done like me and been like "Yo, you just need to leave. Please leave me alone"? And there's no judgment because I already told you what I did, and I'm not even 100% sure that I would behave differently today. It's a struggle, y'all; it really is. So hit me up on Instagram, let me know what you would do, and thank you guys for tuning in. You can find the transcript for this episode at www.psalmstogod.com/TakeUpYourCross. Don't forget to like and subscribe. See you next time!
References and Footnotes
- In my mind I'd like to think I would behave differently, but I know that when you're taken off guard, you resort to instinct which is probably still going to say "stranger danger" in this case.
- Daniel 3
- How we treat people can have a profound impact on their psyche, how they value and perceive themselves.
- It's ironic because the verse I planned for the planned episode actually fit this unplanned episode better.