Me: Prodigal have you decided what you are going to eat?
Prodigal: Yep, and I just ordered it so we have time to chat before the meal comes out.
Me: I can tell you about an encounter that happened while eating out.
This is from the book You Were Born For This by Bruce Wikinson
Let me tell you about a mysterious encounter I had in a restaurant outside Denver with a waiter named Jack. I call it mysterious because on the surface everything looked so ordinary. Five friends at a table for six, waiters coming and going, voices, clatter–just what you’d expect in a busy restaurant. But by the time dinner was over, we all knew beyond a doubt that we’d been present for a divine appointment.
It was as if God Himself had walked up and said, “Thank you for saving Me a place. I’ve been wanting to do something for Jack.”
Here’s what happened.
During the course of the meal, Jack had served us well. But apart from the usual exchanges about the menu and our orders, we hadn’t spoken much. Around the table, meanwhile, the conversation revolved around some of Jesus’ more extreme teachings–ones like “Ask, and you will receive” and “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” During the conversation I felt unexpectedly nudged by Heaven to try something I’d never done before. At the same time I sensed it was meant to involve Jack.
My experiment involved putting three hundred dollars “at risk.” Now, don’t let the amount throw you. The money wasn’t mine, and believe it or not, the person who was letting me carry it around was expecting me to give it away.
When Jack came by to refill the water glasses, I posed a question. “Have you ever heard the saying “It is more blessed to give than to receive?”
“Yes, I have,” he said.
“Do you believe that?”
“Sure, I guess I do,” he said, looking puzzled.
“Good!” I said. “I have an interesting opportunity for you.” I placed a hundred-dollar bill on the table. “You have an unusual choice, Jack. You can either receive this hundred dollars as a gift, not a tip…”
I paused. I definitely had Jack’s attention, and the two couples with me didn’t appear to be breathing.
I looked at Jack. “Or you can say no to the money and instead give each of us a dessert. But this would be you buying the desserts, not the restaurant. You can’t do both things, and there’s no right or wrong. So what would you like to do–give or receive?”
Jack just stood there holding the water pitcher. He asked twice if I was serious. Then finally he said, “I’ll take the hundred dollars.”
True to my word, I handed him the bill.
“Thank you!” he said. Then he walked back to the kitchen.
After he left and my friends started breathing again, we all tried to figure out what had just happened. Was my unusual test about giving and receiving fair? What was Jack thinking now? And what in the world was he saying to the crew in the kitchen?
All the while I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable. You see, earlier I had slipped another two hundred dollars under my plate. If the waiter had chosen to buy us desserts and not take the hundred–believing that it is more blessed to give than receive–I was going to give him the hidden two hundred dollars. I had really hoped he would make the self-sacrificial choice because I’d strongly sensed that God wanted to encourage him with the larger sum.
The next time he came around, I said, “I’m curious, Jack. Do you feel like you made the right choice?”
“Absolutely!” he said excitedly. “In fact, it was a miracle. You see, I’m a single dad.” He pulled out his wallet and proudly showed us a photo of his three-year-old son. “Isn’t he something!” he said with a big smile. Then he explained his reaction. “I have to work three jobs during four days of the week just so I can take care of my son the other three days when my ex-wife works. But I am having a tough time making ends meet. Just this morning I had to mail my alimony check of a hundred dollars even though my account was down to zero. Driving to work this afternoon, I actually prayed, “God, please! I need an extra hundred dollars, and I need it tonight!”
Well, I was speechless, and so were my friends. How could we have known of our waiter’s crisis or of his prayer for a hundred dollars?
Then it was my turn to explain. I told him that even if he had decided to give instead of receive, I’d planned to give him the hundred dollars. “But now that I know your story, I agree. You made the right choice.”
Suddenly I knew what needed to happen next. “You have to know that none of this money was mine,” I told him. “The owner wanted me to pass it on as a kind of message to the right person. And I’m sure that person was you.”
I reached under the plate for the other two hundred. “Obviously God wanted you to have the hundred dollars, and He wants you to have this too.”
One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.
Jennifer Van Allen