Charles Swindoll tells a story about a man who bought chicken dinners for himself and his date late one afternoon. The attendant at the fast food restaurant, however, accidentally placed the day’s proceeds in the bucket instead of poultry. After driving to the picnic site, the man opened the container and realized he had a lot more than chicken–about $800 mostly in cash. But this man was unusual, in that he and his date drove all the way back to the store to find the manager in a panic.
The man walked in and became an instant hero. “I want you to know I came by here for chicken, but instead you all gave me all this money.” Well, the manager was relieved to have the money back and complimented the man for his actions. “You two are the most honest people I’ve ever known. I am going to call the newspaper right now and have your pictures put in the paper. The man responded, “Oh no don’t do that!” Then, leaning in and whispering he said, “You see, that woman I’m with is somebody else’s wife.”
It’s possible to be honest without integrity. The Apostle Paul was concerned with both.
Acts 20:32-38 includes a notable saying that isn’t found in the gospels, but Paul told the Ephesian elders to remember what Jesus said: “More blessings come from giving than receiving” (CEV). Paul wanted the leadership to focus their attention on helping the weak and ministering to those who couldn’t help themselves.
It’s been repeated countless times to church members and leaders. There is a problem with the consumer driven mentality of our culture infiltrating the community of faith. In essence, we in the church can be focused more on “what am I getting out of it?” than “what can do to help?” This issue is becoming more and more significant with churches who are wrestling with how to maintain their future in reaching out to a younger generation.
We ought not be worried about our survival, but rather emphasize a spirit of service in the name of our Lord to our world. The generational divide is becoming more and more pronounced, and people aren’t attending church just because it’s the thing to do anymore. This is a painful reality for churches who are trying to keep up with the changing culture without changing those things which are essential to their identity.
Even though the statistics do not favor increased participation in church by millennials and the I-generation, I remain encouraged by the energy of those who do remain connected to the body of Christ. These young men and women are not only unique, they are exceptional and should be praised. One teenage girl in particular has impressed me with her commitment to “giving up something” for Lent. She recognizes the spiritual component of Jesus’ sacrifice and wants to do something to identify with that spirit.
During the Lenten season, I am spending time thinking about Jesus’ service and those things that were important to him. I want to reflect upon his suffering and sacrifice, and allow the Holy Spirit to teach me some things about giving to others. This will start as I remember the words of Jesus, then translate that remembrance into doing something with my faith.