"Beef is expensive." She didn't even look up as she said it. Was she just stating facts? Or did she not approve of my meal choice?
The social chasm between us suddenly grew wide. Or perhaps I only just noticed it for the first time. There we stood, me firmly planted on the 'rich' side and her on the 'poor' side. The width and depth of the chasm made crystal clear by the price I was willing to pay for red meat.
We live well here in Papua. Our home is small, but modern. We have a western style toilet rather than a squatty potty. We have a shower rather than a tiled tub of water and a ladle. We have a full size frigde/freezer and a stove with an oven. We have a washing machine and a covered place to hang clothes to dry protected from the elements. We have air-conditioning in the bedrooms. Our home and furnishings are provided by our agency and they took pride in helping us feel comfortable without being too extravagant. We are well cared for.
There are a lot of much nicer, bigger, elaborately furnished homes around than ours, but there are volumes more simpler homes. To afford a place like ours you need to be educated and have a good job. These homes are out of reach for the majority in our community.
I bought the beef anyway. A couple days later my living room filled with children who enthusiastically gobbled down their very first mouthfuls of sloppy joe. Moms and Dads joined us and took home extra sandwhichs in ziplock bags.
At last, when everyone had returned home with full tummies and my living room was back in semi-order, I sat down and breathed out a prayer of gratitude for the day, for my home, and for beef.
I thought about Jesus's story of the rich man preparing a great banquet (Luke 14:16-24). The man invited all the well-to-do's of the community who all made excuses as to why they couldn't come. So the rich man sends his servant out to the streets to invite the poor and the crippled. 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full'.
As I sit thinking about the rich man in Jesus's story I see that he wasn't afraid to open his very nice, big, modern, well furnished, expensive food on the table home to the poor. The rich man wasn't concerned about protecting all the nice stuff he owned, he filled his home with beggars and cripples.
If this story is a picture of love and grace extended, of open places at God's table for those marginalised and dismissed by society, then you'd better believe it also has huge implications for how I go about life today.
The children and families that came to my home are far from being
beggars. They live in the middle income bracket here and some even live in houses much fancier than ours. We have enjoyed the hospitality of their homes and I hope they in turn enjoyed the hospitality of ours. Never the less, I am seen as rich if for no other reason than my skin color and country of birth.
I have much to learn about living well as a rich person, and specifically about how to do that in my new culture. I know that I mess it up.
"Don't worry about the beef." a friend said. "Pork is expensive too and people buy that. Just make enough for everyone to take home leftovers." And another, "And keep your front door open. It means your heart is open too."