Right Back Atcha
You Can’t Outgive God
"OK, guys, I have a proposition for you.” My eighth-graders stared at me curiously, not sure what to expect. It was the first period back from Christmas break, and everyone seemed both glad to be back at school and a little sad at the same time.
“You've all seen the news, and you’re aware of the tsunami disaster in Asia that happened over break. I was wondering if you’d like to help.” They perked up, anxious to know what they could do. “Since last year, we’ve raised a lot of money for our class trip to British Columbia. I figure we have around $1,800. What would you think of donating some of that to the tsunami victims and going camping or something instead of the trip to Canada?”
Their response was immediate. Questions like “How would we donate the money?” and “Would it really help?” abounded. We discussed the possibilities, and someone suggested we give all but a few hundred dollars. Sarah Quick responded, “No, let’s give it all! We can always raise more money for ourselves, but these people need all the help they can get!”
I could see the wheels turning. They had witnessed so many devastating pictures and stories on the news. Looking back, eighth-grade vice president Lexi Zornes says, “I was sad, I felt bad for the people that were there, and I wanted to help them somehow. I felt bad for the kids that lost their parents and didn’t have anywhere to go.”
"The tragedy was unimaginable,” remarked sergeant-at-arms Scott Cheek. But much was at stake, and when you’re 13, it’s hard to envision giving away everything you’ve worked for, especially when it seems you won’t get anything in return.
“OK, put your heads down. Raise your hand if you would like to send all of our money to the tsunami victims.” I held my breath, said a prayer and watched as every single hand rose.
As difficult as it was to concentrate, we proceeded with class. Later that day I contacted the Red Cross to see about donating, and they said they’d send an envelope for our check of $1,860.81. On a whim, I contacted the local paper to see if they were interested in the story. They were delighted to hear about the unselfishness of these youth, and they sent a reporter that afternoon. Several students’ pictures were taken, and we were printed on the front page the very next day.
Since then, I’ve received numerous phone calls about how this has inspired other acts of giving. Community members wanted to know where they could send their donations. Camp Brotherhood, a Christian retreat in Mt. Vernon, Washington, called and offered their site to us for just the price of our food. An anonymous donor sent us a check, reimbursing our donation in full, so we can still have a nice trip. Two other donors sent checks that put us over the amount we originally gave. And Time magazine published an article mentioning our donation. It’s amazing how many people have been touched!
But the blessings don’t stop there. It seems that unselfish giving was designed to benefit the giver as much as the receiver. We know from Ecclesiastes 11:1 that when we cast our bread upon the waters, after awhile it comes back to us like we had never imagined. The Message Bible puts it this way: “Be generous: Invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns.”
What a great system God set up! Giving perpetuates blessings; it’s a win-win situation. As Shelby Wick says, “Well, I didn’t really think about it. When Mrs. Hisey mentioned it, I had no doubts that it was something we should do. But I didn’t expect people to give us money back.”
If you ask Lance Magee, he’ll tell you that when you give something to God, you receive a lot in return. Duncan Miller points out, “You get something back. You feel good about yourself.” Jessica Romero concurs, adding that it’s good to know that God will use you to help others.
Leah Griffith makes a good point: “God had His Son die for you, and He gives you mercy and grace.” If God is so gracious as to provide us with eternal life and all the good things we have in this life, what do we have to lose by giving back to Him?
This year I’ve been talking with my students about how great it is to give selflessly to others, and how God blesses us in return. We’ve had some lively discussions about how God works, and how it’s impossible to outgive Him. He’s certainly proven that to be true for us. He’s actually brought good out of all the pain caused by the tsunami … not just for the victims in Asia, but for people all around the world. As my eighth-graders would say, "It’s, like, way better to give than receive."