I sat in a coffee shop the other day minding my own business. I had a cup of joe at arm’s length, my face buried in my laptop, a newspaper folded to my right, and a Bible sitting to my left. I was looking busy and religious. People came and went as always, and I paid no attention until I overheard a patron say to the barista, “Can I order a cup of hot water?” It shocked me a bit. Who has the guts to order a cup of hot water at a coffee shop where people are spending five bucks for lattes and macchiatos?
After rolling my eyes, I turned to see what character I’d discover. He appeared to be in his mid-20s. He didn’t look thoroughly homeless, but close. His clothes looked like they hadn’t been washed in a couple of days. It seemed he hadn’t showered either. I noticed that the barista was taken back a tad by his request too. The guy sensed it, no doubt, because he sheepishly said, “I’m sorry I’m so cheap.” His words softened me, but I was still suspicious.
Hot water in hand, he walked over to the island counter, which provided the sweeteners, half-and-half, skim and whole milks, honey and so forth. Unwillingly, I caught his eye. I looked away, burying my face deeper into my laptop. From the sound of things behind me, he was his producing his own drink concoction. He sat down directly in front of me, a little to my right, about three feet away. His choice of seating made me think, “He’s calculating his move. Any minute now will come the sob story.”
I was obsessed with skepticism. I was convinced he was setting me up–my leather briefcase-toting, cell-phone-addicted, laptop-hypnotized, coffee-sipping, spoiled-rotten Christian self–for a handout.
He began skimming through the pages of a book. I lifted my head from behind my laptop, peered over his shoulder and noticed words on the page like “attitude, success, achievement, strength.” Then I watched him slowly raise the cup to his mouth, pause and take a sip of his hot water. And that did it. Suddenly, a stereotype shift occurred in me. The curtain lifted to reveal that I was the stereotypical one–a self-absorbed, cynical-thinking, judgment-bearing, Bible-toting Christian. On my throne I had singled him out and analyzed negatively his every move. I labeled him and judged him. I was the “cheap” one.
The Lord emptied my heart of cynicism and filled it with compassion. Then He took it a step further. He pressed me to put hands to His compassion. “Jarrod, talk to him.” I’m not one to say that God audibly talks to me, but I felt a heavy pressing of His Spirit on my heart. I confess with regret and disgrace that I didn’t. I exited the coffee shop after a quick trip to the restroom. With every step I took toward my Explorer and away from the coffee shop, the Lord’s pressing words faded.
Jesus had uncrossed my folded arms of judgment and placed in my hands soothing waters of compassion. The Spirit wanted to quench his thirst, and instead I quenched the Spirit. “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water truly I tell you, that person will certainly be rewarded,” Jesus said (Matthew 10:42, TNIV). Cold water soothes. Hot water burns. Cold water quenches a thirst; hot water mocks it. I not only missed an opportunity to present him something better than hot water, I denied him a hand out of it.
Offering cold water is not just an opportunity to share the Gospel with words, but to share the Gospel with hands. Had I to do it over again, I would have invited him to my table, bought him a grande cup of bold and sweet coffee, chatted with him about March Madness maybe and inspired him in his pursuits. If he was game, I would have set up a time to meet again and take him to lunch. I would have bought that book for him following our conversation and dropped it onto his table as I headed out the door. With his heart encouraged, his trust assured and his stomach full, I would have offered him the priceless One, the One who quenches the deepest thirst, Jesus. But I completely missed it. I left him thirsty.
Have you noticed anybody “thirsty”? Just look at the office or desk or cubicle or table next to you. There are thirsty people everywhere, longing for cold, living water. They’re not thirsty just to hear about it, but to taste the spiritual living water overflowing from our lives.
I’m going back to that coffee shop next week, and the next. I hope to see him again. If I do, a cup of cold, living water and a hot latte will be waiting for him. And then, seeing him through the eyes of Jesus instead of the eyes of judgment, I want to tell him, “I’m sorry I was so cheap.”