A few weeks ago, I went to South Korea for a holiday. There were lots of good food and I had a great time seeing the main parts of Seoul.
One evening I needed to use the subway, so I headed towards the ticket machine to buy myself a train ticket. Whilst I was pressing different buttons on the screen, an elderly woman walked up to me and starts pointing at the screen and then at my wallet. I wasn’t sure what she was trying to say to me. I gave her an apologetic ‘Sorry I don’t speak Korean’ look, but she kept pointing at the screen and then at my wallet.
I thought maybe she’s trying to tell me that I need to put money in the machine to get my ticket, which I already knew that was what I had to do.
Eventually she kept pointing at my wallet. At this stage it was opened and she was pointing at the 10,000 won bills (about 10 AUD) I had. Still confused I took a 10,000 won bill out to ask if she was trying to tell me something about the money.
She took it and walked away.
I was left a bit stunned. It took about three seconds for me to realise that an elderly woman just took – or to put it more bluntly, stole – my money.
To be honest, I was quite shocked to lose 10 Australian dollars. There goes one ticket on the subway or that’s a meal I could’ve bought with that money! But the other shocking thing was, an elderly woman took money from me! An elderly woman! – I thought rebel teenagers were the only ones doing petty crime.
My gut feeling, though, was that she did it not because she thought it was a fun past time to prey on tourists but that she had to do it out of necessity.
That night, when I came back to where my Airbnb was, I saw that lady again. She walked up to another unsuspecting victim, pointing at the ticket machine and then at their wallet. She walked away like it was a normal part of her day.
“To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
In the Bible, the book of Micah chapter 6, verse 8 tells us, “[God] has shown you… what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
What does mercy look like in our society today?
Many years ago, I read a sermon illustration about a man in America who, during the time of the Great Depression, took an elderly woman to court because she stole bread from his store.
The man was indignant and demanded that the woman be fined for what she had done and to repay him the cost of the bread.
The judge considered thoughtfully his arguments and ordered the woman to repay the owner as well as the fine.
But then, the judge gives out another order.
The judge ordered that everyone in the court room be fined for the lack of compassion they had to helping those in need, which ultimately drove this poor old woman to commit theft in order to survive.
The judge placed his 50 cents in the basket, and then ordered an officer in the court to collect the rest from everyone in the court room that day… including the officer, and including the shop owner.
I don’t know if this story is true or not but it does challenge us to evaluate how we live out ‘justice, mercy and humility’.
We live in a ‘dog-eat-dog’ world where we become overly protective of our personal assets and security. We occasionally give money to charity – enough to placate our conscience and shield our minds from the need around us.
If we live in a society where elderly woman had to steal to survive, isn’t this a symptom that we are not taking justice seriously enough, and that we do not prioritise mercy, and that we are far from walking humbly with God?
Earlier in this article I said that I saw the elderly Korean woman return to target more unsuspecting ‘victims’. I don’t know her background, but perhaps she was a victim first being abandoned by society.
Today, like any other time in history since the Fall, God calls His people – the Body of Christ – to rise up and fight for justice, mercy and humility in our society. Let no one be left alone and abandoned to fend for themselves.
Rachel is a pastor, preacher and writer. Based in Sydney, she’s a fan of literature, sport and the arts. Check out her website rachellhli.wordpress.com