Christians find it nice to tell someone, “Please let me know if thre’s anything I can do for you. Anything at all.” Especially if that person recently experienced a tragedy or is about to set out on some big adventure that will clearly require the help of others. It feels good to write that blank check of support. Plus, as a Christian, we’re probably supposed to say that. I don’t know if the exact phrase is in the Bible, but I’m sure there’s something close to that in the New Testament. But what if someone calls your bluff? What if in the middle of enjoying that really warm feeling of fictional support, someone tries to take you up on the offer? That’s bogus, right?
For bad people, that is. Not you and me of course, but for people who say, “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do for you” and don’t really mean it. That happens you know. I know you and I always say it without conditions, but some people throw out fake offers of generosity.
It happened to a friend of mine who was going on a mission trip. She spoke at a church about the trip and afterward a man approached her to offer his unconditional support. When he asked if there was anything he could do to help her, she said “I could really use some financial support.” He looked her dead in the eye and said, “I’ll pray for you.”
Good grief. Didn’t she know the protocol of the fake support offer? I say, “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do for you,” and then you say, “I’ll let you know; thank you so much for your generosity.” Then we go our separate ways and I get to enjoy about 67 percent of what it would feel like if I actually helped you . You’re not supposed to take me up on the offer. That’s just rude.
But what if you run into someone who doesn’t know you’re only pretending when you offer support? There’s got to be a better approach than just saying, I’ll pray for you.” Here are two ideas:
Say, “God gifted me with the spiritual gift of thought, not action.” Tell them you’ll be thinking about them next Saturday when they struggle to move everything they own across town. No one likes to help people when they move, but you can’t just say, “I hate moving, no thanks” when they ask you to bring your pickup truck over and help out. So instead, try to tell them that your particular spiritual gift involves thinking about solutions to challenges, not actually participating in the solution.
Or, just throw your car keys. It’s better to walk home than it is to have someone actually cash your blank check of help. But it doesn’t really have to be your car keys, anything shiny will do. That’s why I always keep a handful of silver glitter in my pockets. If I get pushed into a conversational corner I throw the glitter into the air, and while the person I’m talking to is distracted, I run away. An additional benefit is that I look like a cool magician, so I’ve got that going for me.