Ali’s eyes went wide with surprise once again as she told me what had happened to her the night before. She pulled up to the window to pay for her supper at the local McDonald’s only to be told that the bill had been covered by a lady in the other drive-thru lane, a woman who merely wanted to wish her a Merry Christmas and give her a small card bearing the name of a local church.
It took her a minute or two to gather herself before she was able to grab her bag of food and move on out of the way. Genuinely shocked but pleasantly surprised, she immediately called her boyfriend to tell him about the blessing she’d received. She told him it was only seven dollars, but honestly, who does that kind of thing in December, with the economy bad, money tight, and everybody hanging on to the few dollar bills they’ve got to bless their own families with at Christmas? The impact of that simple gesture was still clearly visible as she told me about the incident at work the next day.
I smiled as I listened, excited to hear the story of a woman who had discovered the secret to living above her means. That last four-word phrase bears a negative connotation in the worldly economics of our everyday lives. In that frame of reference it means living in a style beyond what one can afford financially, and generally ends in financial ruin and heartbreak. Yet in Kingdom economics it has a totally different meaning and outcome, a description of living in the abundance, blessing and favor of God, a place we all long to be. Ali’s benefactor left us some clues as to how to get there.
It begins, of course with a relationship with God. While there are many people who make their fortunes on their own, we can’t live in the blessings of God without first believing that He exists and then understanding that He loves each of us individually and longs to fill our lives with His gifts and the good plans that He has for us. A true indication that a divine connection has been made is the change in our hearts and mental attitudes, a shift from thinking only about ourselves to suddenly focusing on the needs and welfare of others. Money then is no longer a treasure to be hoarded but rather a tool to use in helping those around us discover the wonder of God’s love, as well.
Secondly, we reap what we sow. We can’t gather in a harvest without first planting seed. God’s ways are not our ways and so His Kingdom principles often make no sense to our carnal minds, yet in God’s economy we gain by giving what we have away. If we want financial blessings to follow us, we have to first be obedient to what He says to do in the area of tithing and sowing financially into the lives of others. Yet the principle works far beyond our finances into all other areas of our lives as well. Whatever we need becomes ours when we first sow a seed for the same in the life of somebody else.
Thirdly, the woman expected results from her actions. She didn’t necessarily expect to see them herself, but she knew they were the inevitable outcome of the action she took. The whole reason I’m writing this today is that I saw the impact of her gesture in three areas in the life of my friend. The first was that a testimony was shared. Ali was so impacted by the gesture that she couldn’t stop talking about it, even twenty-four hours after the fact. It brought inspiration to those who heard it, creating in them a desire to repeat the action themselves, thus multiplying the effect of the original gift. And lastly, it led to a spiritual connection with God. While not a regular church-goer herself, Ali told me that it made her want to visit the church named on the card, if only to look for the woman and thank her. Yet who knows what might happen in her own spiritual life as a result of walking through those church doors? Perhaps the price of a soul might be that seven-dollar fast food freebie, transforming the original generosity into a truly priceless gift.
I can’t remember now if it was something I saw on a magazine page I flipped in passing or on a website I visited, but somewhere this past holiday season I came across four words that stuck with me because their meaning when used together changes depending on which word is accented in the phrase. It’s simply this: Pass on the gift. And the whole point of the ponderings above boils down to a simple choice we make multiple times every day. You see, all of us have received so much to be thankful for, and daily God gives us the opportunity to return the favor, to bless others as we have been blessed. Most of us will never receive a free meal at a restaurant, but the Christmas season just past reminds us that we’ve each been given a Gift that more than any Happy Meal will reveal to us the joy to be found in the love of God. And now we’re faced with a choice. We can pass on that Gift - simply ignore Him or openly reject Him. Or, having eagerly accepted the love and salvation that He brings, we can pass the Gift on in ways that are as unique as we are, following the leadings of the Father who loves us and the Holy Spirit who directs us.
In my mind’s eye I picture Ali at the fast food restaurant as a smile suddenly lights up her face, her hand closes on the bag of free food and then grabs her cell phone to begin spreading the good news. And therein lies a three-point prescription for making 2011 a truly happy new year: believe, receive, and then simply pass it on.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…”
(Isaiah 9:6 KJV)