The "It" in Pay It Forward


Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows.

- James 1:17 NIV

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

- Luke 12:48b NIV

It was month number two of marriage, and month number four of my husband’s painful job search. Our bank account was shrinking, and although we pledged to trust the Lord with our whole heart…discouragement was setting in. As fresh college graduates, we didn’t expect the beginning of our life together to look this way - using wedding gift money for groceries rather than that cool gadget and cute throw pillows; relying on our parents to help us pay the bills when we were supposed to be this new independent unit; spending all day at home together, yet not having fun because, well, how could we when the stress levels were so high and our resources so limited?

That’s when the text came. Some sweet friends, a year ahead of us in marriage, asked for our bank account number, “We would like to give you guys a gift.”

Guilt momentarily stung my heart, but quickly faded to humility and awe. I was fascinated by my friend’s usage of the word gift. This simple word choice implied two things:

1 - There are no strings attached. No paybacks. A gift is a one-way transaction.

2 - There is something in the word gift that is neither degrading nor shameful.

They could have used a dozen other words, but instead they used gift.

It was clear that this couple had pure and loving intentions. We soon received not just a gift, but a very generous gift that helped sustain us during a dry and discouraging time. This gift was God’s provision.

Even though this period of time in our marriage was difficult and painful, I wouldn’t trade it for any other scenario. This season shaped our perspective of money in a powerful way. You see, we are all relying on the Lord for our next breath, penny, snack, and more, but we often forget that He is the provider. This season, paired with our friends’ generosity, caused us to remember who the real Sustainer of life is: our Heavenly Father.

I think about our friends’ generosity almost weekly. I believe this kind of generosity is only possible when one has the right perspective of ownership - knowing that every good thing we have, including our “hard earned money” comes from above. This understanding gives us the freedom to hold our possessions with unclenched, open hands. Our friends recognized how much they had been given from God, and were then able to be an extension of God’s hand to us. But there’s more to the story.

Eventually God provided my husband with an amazing job opportunity. We knew after the first paycheck that it could be easy for us to forget where we came from, regain “control,” and claim to be our own providers. We asked God to help us remember that He alone is our Provider and that everything good we have comes from Him.

Several months after Quinn had been working, we saw an opportunity to be on the giving end. It was our turn to give a gift to another family, after so much had been given to us. This was a powerful experience. I have never felt so close to the Lord as I did in that moment.

Some might say that we were “paying it forward.” But this makes me ask what exactly the it in “paying it forward” is. I think paying it forward goes much deeper than external needs. Our friends saw that we needed hope, faith, love, grace, and encouragement. This is what they really gave us - it just happened to be wrapped up in money. And that is exactly what we saw with the family that we were able to give to. What is the it in “paying it forward?” It is the deeper needs that need to be met. It is God’s grace.

To me, “paying it forward” means looking for the need beneath the surface, and to draw from how Jesus met my deeper needs in order to serve others the same. Paying it forward means treating others the way Christ has treated me, and meeting their needs that this world can’t quite satisfy - needs like freedom, forgiveness, mercy, true love, hope, joy, and new life.

Paying it forward means taking all the good that’s been given to us from above and giving it to others so that they may know God.

Reflection

1. What people, things, talents, or opportunities has God provided me with?

2. How can I use what He has provided in order to share His love with the world?

Prayer

Dear God,

Thank You for Your promise to always meet my every need, even if it doesn’t look like or take the time I expected. Help me to hold all that You’ve given me with open hands. Give me an awareness of my dependency on You. Help me to look beneath the surface and show others Your grace when they need it the most, just like You met my needs when I needed You the most.

Love, Your daughter.

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#FaithForward #spiritualgifts #giving #trustingGod

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