In the movie Mr. Deeds, Adam Sandler asks a group of wealthy investors, “When you were kids, did you dream about becoming a savvy investor one day, who would think with his wallet instead of his heart? I know I didn’t. I wanted to be a fireman. I wanted to help people. And yeah, I wanted to slide down those wicked awesome poles. But you’re not those things you wanted to be. Everybody made a compromise. And another compromise … I bet if we ran into the sixth grade versions of ourselves, they’d put bubble gum in our hair.”
Here’s what happens to us. We all have dreams. Many of us have dreams of making the world a better place. But as we grow, we accumulate more and more stuff and soon there’s so much stuff that we spend all our time and energy keeping up with the stuff.
This is also true in churches. The Church—the Body of Christ—has so much to give; we have received a huge inheritance. Churches are often full of people with great talent, financial resources and skills. And the more we accumulate, the bigger the risk in giving it away.
It’s risky because when you really give, you don’t attach strings to the gift. When I’ve visited Children’s Cup CarePoints in Africa where we help care for AIDS orphans and street kids, it has always been obvious to me that what we’re giving to feed and educate these children will probably never produce a big return to us in this life. It is a risk to invest in a church campus in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, too, in one of the poorest zip codes in the nation. The question of whether it will ever “pay for itself” is not the point. The dream of making a difference in lives in Africa and in Donaldsonville did not include a section on what we’ll get back from it.
Remember the story where Jesus fed more than 5,000 people from one little boy’s sack lunch? Think about it from the boy’s perspective, he risked his lunch to help—not knowing whether he’d get it back, or if he’d get to eat at all. There was no guaranteed return, and it was almost inconceivable that it would even help much in the vast need of the multitudes. As the Church we may think that what we have is insignificant compared to the needs around us. But the key to making a difference is giving what you have—blessing with what you’ve been blessed with and letting God do what only he can do with it.
Too many churches feel like they can’t do anything and their resources remain paralyzed. But the reality is, there is always something to give, some way to help, some way to serve. Start a pantry, help build or repair houses for the poor, give free stuff away at a college campus, start an after-school program at your church, do a mobile medical clinic, feed people free meals in their own neighborhood, help rebuild a church that was damaged in one of the recent hurricanes, go to Africa and hug some AIDS orphans and give them some much-needed positive attention.
But that costs money we can’t really spare right now. If you will get out there and start giving your time and effort and even resources you do have, it has been my experience that people will begin to get behind what you’re doing and you’ll find the funding you need. Be generous with what you have and God will make it enough.
But what difference will such a small thing really make? You never know what God will do with a pack of gum or a bottle of cold water given in His name. You don’t know what God will do in an orphan’s life because of the encouragement you give through a hug. You also don’t know what an impact you can have on a family when you simply give them a fresh coat of paint or a cleaned-up bathroom.
But what about the risk? The little boy who risked all of his sack lunch ended up pulling up a seat to a first-century version of an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. He got to eat a bigger lunch than if he had hidden his lunch away and kept it to himself. And a whole lot of people got to join him at that buffet and witness the power of God.
If we are willing to risk what we have rather than hoard it for our own consumption, we will find that God will do more with it than we could possibly imagine. We just might be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Because the truth is, we don’t have to live a life full of compromise, we can still live-out God’s dreams for his church.