March 23, 2017

Generosity

By Gary Wilemon

I read something in a recent issue of Reader’s Digest that I think really deserves a wider audience. It’s a short anecdote written by Vidal Clay, and here it is in its entirety:

In December 1997 Elizabeth Clay was driving home from Boston University to spend the holiday break with her parents in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. An hour South of Boston, her old Toyota got a flat. The 22-year-old senior pulled off I-95 in the winter twilight and opened the trunk. No spare.

Meantime, a car had stopped. Paul and Diane Woodcock told Clay to follow them to a service station near their house. They arrived to see that it had closed. “Follow us home,” said Paul.

The couple called around to find a tire. No luck. They decided to make their own luck. “Here,” Paul said, handing Clay a set of keys, “take our Ford Escort. We won’t be using it over the holidays.”

Clay was dumbfounded. “But I’m going all the way to South Carolina, and I’ll be gone for two weeks,” she reminded them.

“We know,” Paul said. “We’ll be here when you get back. Here’s our number if you need to contact us.”
Incredulous, Clay watched as the couple put her bags into the car and then sent her off. Two weeks later she returned to find the old Toyota cleaned inside and-out, with three new tires and the radio fixed.

When I first read this, it made me think of those folks in Jerusalem that we read about in Acts 4:32-35: “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales, and lay them at the apostles’ feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need.”

Now it is probably true that the situation in Acts 4 was somewhat unique because of the large number of Jews in Jerusalem for the feast days of Passover and Pentecost. And I don’t think the Lord Jesus necessarily expects us all to sell our houses and lands today and give to the poor. But I do think he expects us to share what we have with others. Paul says in Ephesians 4:28, “Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need.” Dorcas is a wonderful example of someone who did that. The Scripture says in Acts 9:36 that she used her substance to abound in “. . . deeds of kindness and charity, which she continually did” (Acts 9:36).

And I think it is important for us to realize that the ones who benefit when we share with others is not just those who need what we provide — we benefit as well, for God provides a blessing. Remember what Jesus said in Luke 14:12-14? “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” The Lord also said in Matthew 6:3-4, “. . . when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” It is not uncommon today for folks to share with and do good for those who are their friends, those with whom they are comfortable. It is less common for folks to share with those who are not  in their own socio-economic circle. And yet, I suspect that we deprive ourselves of blessings when we fail to seek out ways to share with those who cannot give back.

Perhaps, during the holiday season, it is easy for us to get carried away with the process of giving and getting. But remember, when the apostle Paul spoke to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, one of the things of which he reminded them was that the Lord Jesus had once said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (v. 35). In the Reader’s Digest article, the couple who helped the traveling college student seemed to have a good understanding of that. And it is inspiring to find that there are still folks in the world who have that kind of attitude. May we be like them.

From the Sun Valley Illuminator, January 2, 2000

Truth Magazine Vol. XLIV: 5 p5 March 2, 2000
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