By Bob Russell
Generosity has many benefits. It helps conquer greed. It lays up treasure in Heaven. It reminds us of priorities. It funds deserving charities and missions. But an oft-overlooked benefit is that generosity can be a very effective
In Luke 16:9 Jesus made this unusual statement about the wise use of money: “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Generosity not only lays up treasure in Heaven, it befriends people on earth. There’s a sense in which lavish generosity can help soften the hearts of unbelievers to receive the gospel message.
Howard Brammer was minister of Traders Point Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, for nearly two decades. Howard has always been an extremely generous person, and he recently related this story:
Howard and seven other members of a parachurch board went out to eat after their meeting. Following their meal, the host minister said to their server, “Jeremy, we’re a bunch of preachers here. We appreciate your service to us tonight, and we want to know if there’s anything we can pray about for you before we leave.”
Jeremy responded, “Well, as a matter of fact, there is. My wife has recently had some fairly serious health problems, and she lost her job. As a result we’re $487 behind on our gas and electric bill. If we don’t pay it at the end of this week, our electricity is going to be turned off. Would you pray that God would somehow supply that need?”
The minister led in a moving prayer for God’s provision, and Jeremy seemed genuinely appreciative. When he left, the minister said, “Guys, let’s be a real blessing to this man for serving us. He’s got a legitimate need here. I’m going to leave $20.” The next guy said, “I’ll give $10.” The third put down $20. Finally it got to Howard, and he counted the stack of bills; there was over $150 to leave as a tip. Howard said, “I’ll tell you what, let’s really bless this guy. I’ll make up the difference and make it $487.”
“Oh, no, Howard! You don’t have to do that by yourself,” the others protested. “I’ll give $20 more.” “I’ll do the same.” “I’ll give $15 more.” Howard said by the time it got around to him he didn’t have to give a dime! Well, not really. But his generous spirit was contagious. They left the server a $487 tip!
Howard said he often wondered how Jeremy reacted when he picked up his tip. A year later Howard was back in the area and went to that same restaurant, hoping to see Jeremy. Howard was disappointed that Jeremy wasn’t working that day, but after lunch he asked his server, “Say, could you tell me, what’s the biggest tip any server in this restaurant has ever received?”
She said, “You wouldn’t believe it. A bunch of ministers were in here last year, and they prayed with a waiter and then left him a $487 tip!” Then she added, “Would you pray for me?”
I guarantee you that when the employees in that restaurant think about ministers, and hopefully Christians in general, they think of them in a more positive light than before. If a local customer invites them to church, I suspect they will be a lot more receptive to the idea than they were previously. That’s using worldly wealth to make friends for yourselves and softening hearts to receive the message of Christ.
What if we were lavishly generous with the server at our neighborhood restaurant? What if, especially during this holiday season, we gave exceedingly more than was expected to the housekeeper at the hotel, the boy at the golf course who cleans our clubs, the paper girl, or the postal worker?
The apostle Paul advised Titus to find ways to “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (Titus 2:10). Those of us who have ample resources ought to look for opportunities to shock the world with lavish generosity. That may do more to make friends, open doors, and advance the cause of Christ than all our marketing efforts combined.
“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Bob Russell is the retired senior minister of Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky. Copyright 2015 by Bob Russell. Permission to copy this column may be obtained by writing Debbie Carper, Southeast Christian Church, 920 Blankenbaker Pkwy, Louisville, KY 40243. Find Bob’s books and sermons online (www.livingword.org).