Would you give away your last bit of change to help someone in need? What if it was all you had to live on?
I saw a Facebook post recently that told the story of a homeless man named Robbie, who was willing to part with the last £3 he had to help a student get home safely after she lost her bank card one evening. The article said that the student (known as Dominique) couldn’t bring herself to take the money, but was so touched by his selfless gesture that she set up a donation page to raise enough money for him to find affordable accommodation. Through the help of generous givers offering just £3 each, Dominique fundraised a total of £46,000 by spending a night on the street and with the aid of housing charity The Foxton Centre, was able to provide Robbie with a roof over his head and help other homeless individuals within the area.
It’s safe to say that I can learn a huge lesson about generosity from Robbie. I can’t describe how blown away and humbled I was that someone in his position would give away all he had to help someone a lot more fortunate than himself. Sometimes we might be quick to applaud ourselves or others when we make a small gesture of generosity to someone who has so little, thinking that we are making a sacrifice by giving a pound or two (maybe stretching to a five or ten pound note if we’re feeling extravagant). Then go on our merry way to a comfortable home with heating, hot water and food. Every gesture, no matter its size, will certainly make a difference to someone in need, but when it comes from someone like Robbie, who only had £3 to his name, it speaks volumes about sacrifice.
His selfless act is a complete contrast in attitude to the rich young ruler in Jesus’ well-known parable who was not willing to part with his wealth for anything.
If I had to guess what prompted Robbie’s gesture, it would be that he saw himself in Dominique – someone in need of help. He did what he hoped someone would do for him in the same circumstance. By offering this act of kindness, he received a home for himself and the opportunity to house others sleeping on the streets.
The Bible is full of similar accounts of selfless generosity – when people put their faith into action to help strangers or enemies, or were prepared to give something up that could cost them everything.
The following list of women all have one thing in common: their sacrificial generosity.
1 Samuel 1:2–2:21 tells the story of a woman named Hannah who was desperate for a child but unable to have one. At first her desperation drives her over the edge, but she lays her sorrow and desire before God and offers it as a sacrifice to him. In response, he hears her plea and blesses her with Samuel, who goes to live with Eli the priest when he is of age. Yet Hannah is not left childless again; God gives her three more sons and two daughters.
The Widow at Zarephath
To the struggling widow preparing what she thought was the final meal for her and her son, Elijah’s request to firstly make him some bread from the little flour and oil that she had left must have seemed thoughtless and selfish. She put her faith in the word he gave to her that the flour and oil would not run out after she had made him a meal. This risk could have cost her severely, yet she was prepared to do it, and it saved her and her son’s life. God saw two sets of people in need, and put them together to bless one another for his glory.
Finally, in the New Testament, we see the depth of Mary’s love for Jesus in a physical act of generosity. The jar of perfume that she poured over him would have represented a significant amount of wealth; possibly her life savings. To me, this gesture says that Jesus meant more to her than everything she had to live on.
Just like Robbie’s story, the shared theme of these biblical testimonies is the women’s sincerity, acts of sacrifice and willingness to help individuals in need – at great cost to themselves.
While I’m not advocating that our sacrifices (financial or otherwise) will automatically guarantee us God’s blessings, we can be encouraged to keep stepping out in faith when it’s required of us, knowing that when we feel prompted to give something up or put a stranger’s needs ahead of our own, God will always use the outcome for his purposes.