Electric Giving

For Christmas 2004, Richard and Donna Hamann found a way to make their entire town happy. Anthon, Iowa, a community of 650 people, received an unexpected present from this retired farming couple. The Hamanns paid the electric bill for every home and business in the town of Anthon. The bills, all due on Christmas day, totaled $25,000.

Everyone appreciated the surprising and generous gift, and they expressed it with a stack of thank-you cards and letters. For example, Joyce Corning sent a card that said, “Thank you doesn’t seem adequate for your wonderful generous gift to the entire town.” Another woman cried tears of joy at the news.

But the question everyone asked was: Why? What would prompt the Hamanns to do such a thing?

In response, Richard referred to his faith. A longtime member of a country Lutheran church, he and his wife of 56 years wanted to help the townspeople. He said, “My philosophy is that everything I have is a gift of God and what we do with it is a gift of God.”

That’s not a bad way to see stuff—as a gift from God to be used for God. Besides, God owns it all anyway. Since that’s the case, sometimes I wonder how my finances would be impacted if Jesus had to co-sign all my checks before they would be negotiable.

Richard Hamann went on to explain: “The Lord has been very good to us, and so have the people of this community, so I always thought we ought to be doing something in return if we could.”[1]

Richard’s response brings to mind the question of the Psalmist: “What can I give back to God for all that He has given to me?” (Psalm 116:12).

In response to God’s goodness, what else can we do but give? If you’ve ever heard the word “stewardship” bantered about the church, this is at the heart of what it means—responding to God’s goodness by returning our resources to Him.

In the words of Milo Kauffman, “Stewardship of possessions is the effect of God’s saving grace upon one’s self and his property.... When God gets a man with a car He gets a car to be used in His service. Some seem to think of stewardship as a whip or as legal action to drive people to give to the expenses of the church. Christian stewardship most certainly is not church legislation nor a scheme to deprive men of their cash. It is the natural consequence of an experience with God, the natural reaction of the human heart that has been touched by the divine spirit.” [2]

When God gets your heart, He gets your bank account, your car, your DVDs, your wardrobe, your iPod—He gets everything. But you’re still coming out ahead on the deal. After all, you get the best God has to give in the life of His Son, Jesus Christ. Because of Christ you’ve got a mansion in heaven with your name on the welcome mat. And not to worry, the electric bill will be paid every month!

[1] "With Love from Both of Us," The Christian Science Monitor (12-27-04); "Iowa Couple Pays Electric Bills," USAToday.com (12-21-04).

[2] Milo Kauffman, “The Challenge of Christian Stewardship,” Herald Press, 1955, pp. 3, 5; as cited at http://www.theloudcry.net/sermon_outlines/Volume%20D/Files/volD-25.htm.

December 01, 2006 / Fresh Start