I Just Bought A Lady A Cigarette

I Just Bought A Lady A Cigarette June 21, 2023


Today I surprised myself…

Before I share about my surprise let me share a story about my life.  This story is about a time when I was a young Bible College student.

A story from my past.

One fall during my time as a Bible college student my dad, knowing I’d be home in three weeks for Christmas break, allowed me to drive his truck back to my college campus after Thanksgiving break.  In the middle of this three- and half-hour trip I found myself in a pretty intense snow squall driving through a medium sized town in Central New York.

It was in this town that I spotted a man with some pretty severe physical limitations in a wheelchair.  He was alone and struggling to make his way down the sidewalk.  I quickly turned the truck around and asked him if I could give him a ride.  I believe that this man had cerebral palsy.  He was incredibly hard to understand, and he had a hard time controlling his limbs and it was quite a struggle to get him up on the bench seat of my dad’s old Ford F-150.  I said, “Where are you headed?”  He pointed and I drove several blocks before he showed me where to turn in.  At that moment I realized that I was pulling up to a bar.  My conscience was in crisis.  Was I helping this man sin?


Let me give a little background for you.  At the time my home church would have no problem declaring alcohol as a sin.  I never saw a drop of alcohol consumed in my home and at this point had never touched a drop of alcohol and never had a desire.  I was going to a college where I had signed off on a document that said that I would not drink.  So here I was convinced in my righteousness as it pertains to alcohol giving a person a ride to a bar.

The journey began with me believing I was a Good Samaritan but ended with confusion.  Sadly, I must admit that I emphatically told the man, “If I had known you were going to the bar, I would not have given you a ride!”  I proceeded to lecture him on the evils of alcohol before retrieving his wheelchair from the back of the truck and helping him out of the truck.  Driving away I was both confused and frustrated.

Fast Forward

Let’s fast forward.  Quite a few years have passed since those little narratives occurred.  I am a bit ashamed now of my moralistic vigilantism but I still struggle.

I am a pastor and I recently found myself walking out of a hospital where I had spent the afternoon visiting one of my parishioners.  Preparing to leave the building I had lady approach me.  She asked me a very specific request.  She said, “Sir, could I have a dollar so I can go buy one cigarette at the store over there?”  Momentarily my world went into slow motion.  A voice inside my head said, “Cigarettes are bad!  You can’t support that habit.  Just say no.  Tell her that you can’t help her.  Tell her that cigarettes are bad for her.”  Glancing at her I recognized her as a lady that many people had ignored as she made her request to them.  I saw people put their heads down and simply walk away when she approached them.  Now, I had a crisis.

I routinely preach that all people have value and that we must see them.  We must see them for who they are and not what we desire them to be.  I looked at her and I saw a lady who was struggling.  She had a tremor in her voice.  This woman also had a bandaged-up arm and struggled to maintain eye contact.  She was alone.  She was clearly struggling.  The other voice said, “extending dignity is more important than preaching moralism.”  So, I reached in my pocket, grabbed a dollar and handed it to her.

She looked me in the face and said, “Thank you.”

I then proceeded to walk to my truck.  I sat for a moment contemplating this little occurrence and then drove over to the exit and sat and waited in traffic.  As I did so, I saw my friend exit the small convenience store holding one cigarette.  She then walked down the sidewalk in her flip flops smoking.  As she left, I remember thinking, I hope my little act helped brighten her day.  I hope she felt seen.


The older I have become the more I am convinced that I do not have all the answers.  The man in the wheelchair didn’t need a lecture.  Someone needed to see this man and I did see him until I did not like what he was doing or at least what I thought he was doing.  This man fit into the category of other.  He did not fit into the world he had been born into.  He was a person who would make many uncomfortable to be around.  I have to wonder if the bar is where he found friendships and community.  Perhaps he faced judgement from the churches in town.  That’s probably not a stretch for I know that the night I met him, he faced judgement from at least one young religious kid training to be a pastor.

These two little happenings give me hope.  My heart is changing.  In the past, this lady gets a lecture…but I still have work to do.  There are days when seeing people is not the natural outflow of my heart.  This saddens me.

Some Scriptures

Before I close, I wanted to share a couple brief passages of Scripture that come to mind as I consider these stories.  Consider the following passages.

  • Matthew 12.1-7 Here Jesus is condemned because His disciples pick and eat grain on the Sabbath because they were hungry.
    • Jesus replied, “I desire compassion and not a sacrifice.”
  • Mark 7.1-13 Here Jesus is condemned because His disciples fail to wash their hands before they eat.
    • Jesus replied, “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”
  • Luke 13.10-17 Here Jesus is condemned because He heals a woman but has the audacity to do so on the Sabbath.
    • Jesus replied, “This woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for 18 long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?”

Reformed Moralistic Vigilante

While I did not expound in depth each of the Scriptures above, I will say that each of them illustrates how Jesus at times set aside cultural norms and religious moralism for the purpose of helping and rescuing others.  I believe the woman who approached me in the hospital was not sent to test my morals about smoking but rather sent by God to see if I had learned to see others as valuable.  I’d like to think I passed the test, yet I recognize that I was dangerously close to failing.  Yet, that is the beauty of being a Jesus follower.  I get to learn from today and He gives me a second chance tomorrow.

My name is Jon Goodwin.  I am a pastor and Jesus follower.  A pastor who just bought a lady a cigarette.  I am a reformed moralistic vigilante.

To learn more about the author check out: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/compassionateengagement/2023/06/before-we-begin-a-little-about-me/






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