Our local church has encouraged families to meet in small groups to build faith and community. Twice a month, our Friends of Faith group meets to discuss a topic/chapter in our latest book of choice. This week’s discussion group started as usual with some small talk, as we sampled the light hors d’oeuvres, followed by an opening prayer before shifting our attention to the subject at hand.
The topic was generosity.
For almost two hours, we discussed the author’s perspective and started asking questions amongst ourselves. How do you define generosity? How does it reflect a dynamic faith? How is it displayed? Then one of our members posed a hypothetical question. “If you were down to your last dollar, would you spend it, save it, or give it away?”
There was a momentary silence.
One person spoke up and said they’d go to McDonald’s and get a one-dollar hamburger. Another said they’d save it to pay for gas when they needed to go for a job interview. My wife of two years sat silently nearby. During an extended pause, she inserted a quick, spontaneous comment.
“I’ve been in that situation.”
The room grew silent. All eyes and ears turned toward Patrice.
It was no longer a hypothetical discussion. Sensing a story was about to unfold, all of us waited quietly. Patrice paused, realizing she had just opened a door into a heretofore hidden moment in time, she took a breath and proceeded to explain.
“Five years ago, my former husband left me. He cleaned out our bank accounts, leaving them overdrawn. All I had at home to eat was potatoes and milk. For the next week, I ate potato soup every day. I soon discovered that my husband had failed to make the car payments and my only mode of transportation faced repossession. If that wasn’t bad enough, the house was on the brink of foreclosure. When Sunday came, I went to morning Mass, sat near the back and hoped those sitting nearby did not see the uncontrollable tears streaming down my face. Once the service was over, I did not move. I couldn’t move. I waited. Another Mass was about to begin. I sat through a second service and then a third. I was overwhelmed with a sense of loss and failure. I knew I was about to lose everything. The tears flowed. I felt utterly defeated.
When the offering plate passed by during the third service, I looked in my purse. There I found a single dollar bill, a stark reminder of my financial state. That’s all. One dollar. Flashing through my mind was the biblical story of the Widow’s Mite. So in that moment, I followed her example, I resigned myself to give all I had. Placing my last dollar in the offering plate, I told the Lord, “I surrender. My life is in your hands.”
The last service over, I finally left, broken, and broke. I’d accepted the fact that I would soon lose my home, my car, and my possessions. My poverty left me with nowhere to turn but to God. Yet, there now seemed to be a sense of overwhelming peace. In that moment, I felt free. I had given it up to the Lord.
Unbeknownst to me, the Lord had a different plan.
The very next day, an envelope arrived in the mail containing a note from a friend. He said he had been praying and the Lord told him to give money to Patrice. Enclosed was a check for $5,000. I was dazed. How could he have known my predicament? He didn’t know. But God did.”
Patrice admitted that she had never known such holy generosity, never received such a timely answer to an urgent prayer. All it took to save her life was one person who out of his abundance, listened to the Lord and obeyed. His obedience meant her salvation, financially speaking — not to mention a humbled heart before the Lord. His gift helped her avoid losing anything and set her on the path to rebuilding her life.
The author’s words on generosity now took on new meaning. I must confess, Patrice’s testimony energized the following text. No longer a theoretical topic to be dissected, the living proof of the power of generosity sat among us.
“God invites us to a life of gratitude while the world fosters discontent. God proposes trust; the world arouses fear. God promotes giving; the world promotes getting. God invites us to cooperate with his providence while the world rallies behind self-determinism. God appoints us in stewardship while the world touts ownership. The world encourages entitlement when, in reality, everything is a gift from God. God invites us to look out for our neighbor; the world tells us to look out for ourselves. God operates from abundance; the world from a place of scarcity. God created us out of generosity to live generous lives; the world encourages us to live a small, selfish life.” (1)
One dollar may not seem like much — unless it’s your last one.
Prayer may seem a fruitless exercise — until God answers it in a powerful way.
Obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit may not always sound rational — until you remember that the Lord sees a bigger picture.
Once again, listening to this story, I am reminded that we are to be more than a cup to receive God’s blessings but a channel through which He may bless others.
Never an owner, always a steward.