Osceola McCarty was born in 1908 in Wayne County, MS and moved to Hattiesburg at an early age and spent her life there. In the 6th grade, her aunt became hospitalized and needed care. She had no children of her own, so Osceola quit school never to return in order to care for her. Osceola became a wash woman and did that until her arthritic hands prohibited her from doing so.
Throughout her life, she put back a small amount of her meager earnings at 1st MS National Bank, where someone noticed what she was doing and offered to help. A local attorney, one whom she was doing wash for, set up an estate plan for her in which she was able to contribute for more than seventy years. She left 60% of her estate to the University of MS for students who were in financial need. Her actions drew international attention when it was discovered that the amount would be $150,000 for USM. Osceola died in 1999, having been recognized by President Bill Clinton for her generosity and example.
Who would have imagined that someone like Osceola could leave such a profound impact on the world? Indeed, she is perhaps USM’s most famous benefactor.
This month our church is entering into a Stewardship emphasis entitled “Cheerful Giving, Joyful Living” in which I hope that all of our church family will participate in. We will have a commitment Sunday on the 30th, but rather than ask for a dollar amount commitment, there will be a place to mark different levels of involvement. The hope is that every single person, regardless of age or economic status, can indicate some level of giving to the Lord through our church. It is a commitment between each one of us and the Lord, but affects the overall community.
The Apostle Paul, during his last missionary journey, stopped prior to his arrival at Jerusalem to challenge the Ephesian church leaders. Paul defended himself from his critics and talked about his future sufferings. After his remarks, he closed by saying to remember the words of Jesus: “it is better to give than to receive.” (Acts 20.35)
This was Paul’s last time to speak to these Ephesian leaders whom he loved, and what he wanted most was for them to remember what Jesus said rather than what he said. The CEV records “More blessings come from giving than receiving.”
On Wednesday nights, I am leading a study on “I am a Church Member” by Thom Rainer. One of the chapters relates to this truth: “I will not allow my church to be about my preferences and desires.” This has been one of the most helpful sections of this little book, and highlights a painful truth about life in the church. There is no way to satisfy every person’s preferences for music, for example, and this reality results in great conflict and pain in churches throughout our nation. Each one of us has a preference, and when we insist up getting our way, then disagreements lead to divisions. I will not add to the multitude of articles on this subject, but mention it because it is an example of how we can become fixated on our own way of doing things. In short, “there’s no way to please everybody.”
I don’t think church should be about pleasing people. Of course, if we end of displeasing enough people, there won’t be a church at all. Yet, our focus should be not on what we can get out of our church experience, but rather what we can give to the body of Christ. Church is about a community of faith who are united in their love and connection to Christ.
God gave to us first when Jesus came into the world (Jn 3.16). Our response should be one of giving too. And giving of ourselves, both in our time, energy, and yes finances, can make an eternal difference in the lives of others. That’s where the power is. And giving to others also changes us along the way.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of giving in the name of Jesus.