Wednesday, December 29, 2010
"The Power of Half"
This is the title of a book written by the Salwen family of Atlanta. Theirs is a powerful story of how to conquer greed and demonstrate the power of giving. How many of us feel the need to be more generous but we talk ourselves out of it by saying, “I’m just not in a position to do that right now”?
Jesus’ words were recorded by Dr. Luke in his 6th chapter, “Give, and it will be given to you, a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.” There is a mysterious spiritual principle at work, the more generous you are the more blessed you are.
Kevin and Joan Salwen have two teen-age children, Hannah and Joseph. They were traveling the streets of Atlanta one day when Hannah observed a homeless, hungry man on one side of the street and a black Mercedes on the other. She made a comment that if the man in the black Mercedes would sell his car he could feed the hungry man. The family mulled over her comment at the supper table that night and concluded that they would put her suggestion into action.
Kevin Salwen is an entrepreneur and writer and he has done very well to provide for his family. They lived in a 6,500 square foot luxurious home. They decided, as a family, that they would sell their home and downsize their next home and send half of the profit to a host of villages in Ghana. Their “power of half” was approximately $800,000. They discovered they were just as happy in a home half as valuable as their first home.
You might think this story is absurd because it is so contrary to all that we witness in a culture of greed but what the Salwen family decided to do was what Jesus encouraged his disciples to do. “If you want to be perfect, sell you possessions and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven.” (Matthew 19:21). John Bunyan wrote:
“There was a man
Some called him mad.
The more he gave,
The more he had.”
It is not so common for the wealthy to be so generous. Jesus also said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mark 10:25) The wealthy tend to be tight fisted when it comes to money. I learned this early in life with my best friend, Jerry Smith. We lived in a poor neighborhood and Halloween night meant a pillow case of free candy if we were willing to work hard to get it. Even though October evenings are cold in Meadville, Pennsylvania, Jerry and I were soaked with perspiration as we ran from house to house to get free treats.
After completing the rounds in our neighborhood we were excited by the idea of going down Neason Hill a way to where the wealthier people lived, the people in the ‘brick houses’. By 9:00 or 9:30 that evening Jerry and I were totally exhausted but we learned an interesting lesson. The poorer people gave out candy by the handful, the wealthier people gave out candy in single pieces.
Generosity is not always dependent on how much you have or don’t have. Generosity is something that springs from the heart.
My wife will tell you that generosity is not one of my virtues. I will often tell her to withhold the tip at the restaurant if the meal wasn’t served in a timely manner or if the service was poor. “They don’t deserve a tip.”
But isn’t that the point? Didn’t Jesus come to give his life for those of us who didn’t deserve his gift? Isn’t our generosity even more meaningful when it is directed at those who are undeserving.
Paul wrote of the Corinthians (2 Cor. 8:2) “Out of…their extreme poverty welled up …rich generosity.” Generosity isn’t measured by how much we give. It is measured by the willingness within the heart to give
Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.