The only time I treat myself to one of those specialty drinks at the famous coffee shop with the green logo is when someone gives me a gift card.
During Christmastime, one of my clients did just that, so I saved it until the perfect time – a cold day in January when gray clouds obliterated the Kansas sunshine. My mood affected by seasonal weather changes, I desperately needed a chai tea latte. So I joined the other Kansans in the drive-thru line and anxiously waited for my chance to say, “Grande chai tea latte with soy, please.”
But just as I was almost to the outdoor speaker, a fancy white SUV pulled in front of me. I could tell the driver was a woman and I proceeded to write a judgmental character sketch about her in my head:
“Probably lives in one of those million dollar houses with a servant to take care of her and her 2.5 children. Probably married to a guy who loves her and gifts her with all kinds of sparkly expensive jewelry. Probably has never worked a day in her life, just came from her expensive hairdresser and had a mani and a pedi at the same time. Probably is going to order a Venti instead of a Grande because she has so much money and nothing else to do with it. Obviously not a Christian because she cut me off.”
You get the idea. I was plenty mad and took it out on the woman in my mind, safely within the confines of my own vehicle. But then I remembered a simple phrase from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged” (Matthew 7:1, 2).
Instantly convicted, I decided to pray instead of continuing in judgment.
“Okay, God, I’m sorry. Maybe this woman is in a hurry because she’s late for work. Maybe she needs a mocha because she just heard a bad report from the doctor. Maybe she’s buying coffee for all her family members who are putting together a funeral service for their mother.”
Then my creative juices started taking over, so before I started to write a novel in my head, I finished the prayer with, “Whatever she’s going through, Lord, please bless her.”
I drove up to the speaker and ordered my chai. But when I pulled next to the window to pay for my drink, they told me the woman ahead of me had paid it forward. My drink was free and she had told them to wish me a happy new year.
Was she sorry she had cut me off and wanted to make it up to me? I don’t know. Maybe she didn’t even realize what she had done, but she wanted to bless someone that day.
Perhaps she was a Christian and God whispered a reminder to her to be kind to the driver behind her.
Whatever her reasons, it was a lesson for me – to be more careful about the assumptions I make about others. I should not be so quick to judge based on outward symbols of wealth or lack, and I certainly shouldn’t let those observations cause envy or anger in my heart.
I thought of another Bible verse: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought” (Romans 12:3). Sipping my chai, I drove to work, grateful for the lesson God had taught me. Plus, with the free drink I was given – I still had my gift card for another day, and maybe I’ll get a chance to be generous to someone else.
What experiences tend to propel you into judgment rather than grace?
Today, when you find yourself feeling jealous or angry toward someone, try doing what RJ did and pray for the person instead. Let us know what God shows you through this!