For the last several weeks, the Northside family has been unpacking what it means to take the high road in the way we live and how that plays out in every aspect of our lives; our marriages and families, our physical and spiritual health, and even our finances.
College students are often written off as a demographic of people waiting to enter the real world. A lot of times they are perceived as “earning potential” and subsequently, few are challenged or taught to develop the discipline of giving or tithing. But in reality, if you don’t learn the discipline of giving when you have little, it will be so much more difficult to practice when you have a lot. Our hope is to challenge students to be generous with what they have, even when what they have is not what they would define as “a lot.” To reinforce the idea that it’s more about the heart in which the gift is given rather than the amount of the gift itself. I want these students to know that both individually and collectively, they can do something that matters right now.
So last Friday night was our experiment…our exercise in living generously. We broke into our groups, collected an offering, totaled them, and each went out with a plan to bless people. We knew it could and would be awkward. Generosity spooks people…it offends people, it stretches people, it blesses people. We knew we could be sincere in the way we help, but still be sincerely wrong in the way we did it. We didn’t set out to profile people or approach people as “projects,” but creatively share what we had with others in a way that gives God all the credit.
The creativity was not just exercising generosity in random and spontaneous ways, but the challenge was also coming with an offering to give. How does one create an offering? What are you going to give up in order to have an offering to give? Sacrifice has to come into play in some capacity. Our students rose to the challenge, some giving up meals out, coffee or soft drinks, their Warped Tour savings…just under $1900 was collected and distributed last Friday by The Return. Wow.
Some groups took quarters to laundromats, some paid for families’ meals at restaurants, some left giant tips for waiters or waitresses, some passed out grocery gift cards, some filled strangers’ gas tanks, and throughout the night they all felt the tension of trusting God to do something with their offering that they may not get to see the fruit from.
Hearing all the stories at the end of the night made it easy to be inspired by their passion and excitement. One student shared, “God was definitely present Friday night – and he made that apparent when one of the families we chose to bless had the intention of paying for another family because their meal had been paid for just a few weeks earlier. That table’s waiter came up to us and said, “This is such a coincidence; that couple just came in a few weeks earlier and the same thing happened.” All I could think was, “This is no coincidence. This is God.” He is pretty amazing.”
“The Experiment” was certainly an incredible night, but generosity can’t just be a one-night thing. The goal is that being generous becomes a lifestyle, a way of living…not just with our finances or our stuff, but with our love, our encouragement, our gentleness, our kindness, our grace, our forgiveness…
God is the one writing the story, but we all have our parts to play. We have to be looking for our cues…the moments when God allows us to participate in the way He is loving people to Himself.
It’s the way we live lives in love with Jesus. It’s who we choose to be.
We are The Return.