“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)

The other day, I read a devotional on that verse. Here is the first paragraph: “What an interesting idea! By showing kindness to strangers, you could be showing kindness to a messenger of God. Buying an extra burger to share with a homeless person, helping someone change a flat tire on their car, offering a ride to a colleague who needs one-in these ways and more, God often gives us opportunities to show hospitality and compassion for someone who has a need.” (Lloyd Wicker)

Reading that took me back more than 35 years ago to a guy I met named Burt. I was working at a bank in Paterson at the time, and this older, unkempt, kind of smelly, possibly homeless, guy approached me one day on the sidewalk outside my bank, and asked if I would give him money for food. I figured he wanted money for alcohol, so I called his bluff and said, “I won’t give you money, but if you want, I’ll take you across the street and buy you some food at McDonalds.” To my surprise, he immediately agreed. So across the street we went, to get a burger and coffee for Burt, as he told me his name was. He thanked me, and I thought that was the last I would see of him.

A few weeks later, he showed up in my bank, and motioned for me to come over. When I went over to him, he asked me if he could borrow some money from me for only a short time. I asked how much, and he said $5 or $10 (I forget exactly). I hesitated, but finally handed him the money, figuring that was the last I would see of either Burt or the money. But a week or so later, he showed up again-and repaid me the money I had lent him! Over the course of time, Burt would show up every so often and ask for money (never more than $20), and then return days later and repay it. Every time. Every single dime. I wish that all my mortgagors over the years had been so diligent and faithful in repaying their obligations! My relationship with Burt ended when I left that bank for another job.

Over the years I would wonder whatever became of Burt. I’m sure he’s long since passed away. I wish that I had spent more time talking to him, and tried to develop more of a relationship with him. I wish that I had developed a relationship with him, so that I could have more easily and effectively shared the gospel with him. I wish I had invested in him and not just lent him money. I thank God for bringing Burt into my life, the most unlikely angel I could ever imagine.

Brothers and Sisters, keep your eyes open. Perhaps your angel, your Burt, is right around the corner. Keep your hands open. Someone you meet may need something that you can give. Keep your heart open. Be ready to share the gospel, the reason for the hope that is within you, along with your gift. That’s what Jesus would want you to do. That’s what He would do.

Steve Hoogerhyde is a Ruling Elder at GRC and is constantly amazed at the kindness that God has shown – and continues t o show – to him.