Years ago I heard a story about two men knelling at the altar late at night in a dark remote sanctuary. The younger of the men was a struggling young father between jobs pleading for help to pay his rent. He desperately needed $500 to keep his family from being evicted from the tiny apartment. Meanwhile the man next to him knelt in his expensive pinstriped Armani suit pleading with God to help him close a deal for $10 million for his investment firm. As the rich man overheard the pleas of his poor neighbor at the altar, he decided to interrupt.
Tapping the young man on the shoulder, he smiled and said, “Here, let me help you.” He pulled out his billfold and removed five crisp $100 bills and handed him the money saying, “I hope this helps.” The young father with tears in his eyes awkwardly hugged the rich banker thanking him over and over again until he finally ran out of the sanctuary heading home to tell his wife of the miracle he had just experienced.
Once the swinging of the back doors of the sanctuary stopped, and the room returned to silence, the rich banker knelt again looking up to the heavens saying, “Lord now that I have your undivided attention…as I was saying…”
Generosity can come in all shapes and sizes, and for all kinds of different reasons. A few days ago I witnessed a very moving act of generosity in a much unexpected place. Just before lunchtime I decided to drop in on one of my favorite ministries in the life of our church called “Camino de Luz.” This neighborhood group meets twice a month for Bible study, fellowship, training, and lunch. What started out as an outreach to the senior adult women of our neighborhood some eleven years ago now has become a thriving community of men and women, who love God, love each other and see themselves as a force for good in the world.
As I slipped in the back of the room I spotted a couple of the ladies gathered over a baseball cap full of money. Like a large green salad of ones and fives I witnessed the ladies with smiles on their faces counting the money.
I asked Edgardo Martinez, our Minister of Missions, what was up and he informed me that a young man and his mother from South America had shared their plight. They shared their story of how they needed the prayers of the people. However, “Camino de Luz” was not willing to simply pray, this group of neighborhood friends most of whom live week to week on meager incomes, decided to literally “pass the hat” and gather an offering.
As I watched the ladies counting the offering which amounted to $111.00 I was deeply moved. Over the last few years, I have witnessed this group be transformed from a gathering of friends sharing lunch to a movement determined to make a difference in their world. When we give God half a chance with our hearts and lives He loves to transform us more and more into His image.
After the offering I sensed a deep abiding joy in the room, I could tell those who gave had received the joy that comes only through generosity. It should not be a surprise to us that Paul wrote to his friends in Corinth “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7 ESV). Interestingly enough cheerfulness follows generosity. Happy people give. Sad people hold on too tight.
Let me close with the prayer attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi who wrote: “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek–To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.” By the way, “Camino de Luz” means “path of light.” Giving lights the way!