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Now Jim the Janitor may not the brightest fellow I’ve ever met. Or maybe he’s bright in ways that many of us more academically inclined, educated sorts are not quite bright. In any case, it’s not important whether he’s bright or not, really.
What is important is this. I used to be very bothered by Jim the Janitor. When I first moved to Friendship Square, it seemed he would not stop knocking on my door, often at odd hours. But eventually, I began to notice that the Janitor had some very good qualities about him — qualities that I have lacked.
For one thing, I have never once seen him lose his temper, or break out of his even keel. So I asked him one day how he manages this, especially knowing that he faces the same difficulties faced by myself and all other poor people in this society.
He replied: “I always let it go. I always give it to God.”
I marveled at this. For I had noticed that whenever he tries to quote a Scripture, he often gets it wrong, sometimes attributes something to Paul that was actually written by James, or even quotes something from a book other than the Bible, seeming to think it is in the Bible. But I ceased to correct him after a while, because I became more interested in what he was trying to get across, than in the authenticity of his sources.
So the other night, I was sitting in Greg’s apartment two doors down from me, having a casual conversation with Greg, and a not-so-casual conversation with Jim. (I have noticed that Jim never engages in casual conversation. Everything he says has to be in some way spiritual, which annoys many people.)
Suddenly, Jim pointed his finger at me, and in a burst of enthusiasm, he initiated the following dialogue:
Jim: (excitedly) Andy! I know what your entire problem is!!
Andy: (amused) You don’t say? Do tell.
Jim: You’re a rich man!
Andy: (incredulously) Uh . . . rich man? How so?
Jim: You know how God says that the camel can’t go through the eye of the needle that the rich man is trying to get through, or something like that?
Andy: (thumping his Bible) “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Jim: Yeah, that’s the one. This is why you’re having so much trouble getting into the Kingdom of Heaven. You’re a rich man.
Andy: (trying not to laugh) But Jim, I am not a rich man in the least. I am rather a very poor man, just like you, or Greg, or anybody else in the building.
Jim: No Andy, I’m telling you — you are a rich man. You are rich, because you are rich in knowledge, and talent, and experience, and credentials. Your knowledge and your talents are what keeps you from seeing the kingdom of God.
Andy: Wow — this is reminding me of a Scripture, where Paul says: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Knowledge feeds the ego. Love feeds the flock. Is that what you mean? That kind of thing?
(Jim pauses for a moment, as though he had to think it over.)
Jim: Yeah. That kind of thing.
Andy: Well – um – thank you! Nobody’s ever told me that before . . .
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
–1 Corinthians 1:26-29
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