“I’m eating a rich man’s lunch today,” I say to myself, pulling up my chair to the feast of rotisserie chicken, Caesar’s salad, fresh-baked bread and assorted jellies and marmalades spread before me. I usually lunch on the cafeteria “special,” but today I am splurging at La Madeleine, a charming French bakery and cafe with locations around Houston. This cafe on Westheimer is my favorite, primarily because its decor features a full-size, working, water mill brought over from a village somewhere in France. I love the sound of splashing water, the rugged sight and creaking sounds of this ancient wooden machine.
Suddenly a voice interrupts my reverie. “Sir, will you give me anything to buy some food?” I look up to see a derelict, moving from table to table. Although I frequently give to such askers, I react negatively to this man’s sheer audacity. “What nerve!” I instinctively think. “Coming right here inside this nice restaurant. Any respectable panhandler should at least approach people outside.” I look him squarely in the eye. “No,” I say. Without response, he moves to the next table. “He’s a BEGGAR,” I think, with a tinge of disgust.
Then, with lightning speed, another thought flashes through my head. “Beggar at the rich man’s table.” Conscience pounds me like a sledge-hammer. “I am a beggar before God. God is generous to beggars. I show his grace and character by imitating his generosity.” Suddenly I remember the judgment scene of Matthew 25. “When did I see you hungry, Lord, and not feed you?” I am asking. “That certain noon at La Madeleine,” comes the dreadful reply. “And, as for audacity, who do you think YOU are?”
I push back my plate and jump to my feet. Quickly I walk through the restaurant looking for this modern Lazarus. “Let me divide my food with you,” I will tell him. “I haven’t touched it yet, and there is enough here for us both.” He is nowhere to be found. The Lord’s hour of visitation has come, and I have failed to recognize his presence. All I can do is repent and ask God’s forgiveness. “Rich man’s lunch,” indeed! If only those incriminating words had never crossed my mind. “God, please give me another opportunity.”