Two weeks ago, I placed an order for 11 DVDs and 2 books from the Desiring God website. I have received the goods and I am absolutely delighted because I will soon embark on a JP buffet. My DYLM cell group would be the immediate beneficiaries of this purchase for they will feast on my regurgitation (if you know what I mean). My friend helped me to process the order and sent it to his friend who happened to be in the States. He actually went two miles for me for he paid for express delivery to ensure that the products arrived at his friend’s place before his friend returned to Singapore. When he passed it to me last Saturday, he refused to accept my payment. “Let me bless you”, he said. I was stunned, but thankful to God and appreciative to this brother. I offered to buy him lunch, but he said, “If you were blessed by it, then go and bless someone else”.
The year was 2004. I had a group of friends who gathered frequently at a friend’s house in Kembangan to play all kinds of boardgames. I stayed in Bishan then. It was a good 45-minute commute home. One in two times, this friend who hosted the gathering would send me back to Bishan, then travelled back home. I thanked him for his hospitality and I remember he said that it was his (then) fiancee’s father who taught him to be generous. He quoted his father-in-law, “Go and bless others”.
A year on, I remember how I paid it forward. I sent one of my musicians home after a late-night worship practice and he was appreciative of my gesture. He said, “Eh bro, thanks man, next time when I start driving, I’ll definitely send you home”. I replied, “Don’t mention, send others home instead”. I realised that this pay-it-forward mentality was already ingrained into me.
If I wrote an autobiography, I would be able to fill out an entire chapter with God’s blessings to me through people, in point form. I consider myself to be a blessed person and so from time to time, I will pay for meals and drinks, especially if the other person is younger than I am, or is one of my sheep. When they show their appreciation, and whenever I remember to say it, I will tell them to “Go and bless [their] sheep” then.
“… Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” (Acts 20:35b)
When I was younger, I was a selfish boy who subscribed to the “Give and Take” theory – you give, I take. I don’t know about you but the older I get, the more I want to bless others. I used to keep track of how much I spent on someone and my spending amount was directly proportionate to that person’s relational proximity to me. And I take mental notes; if the person doesn’t reciprocate, I’d reduce or cease completely the next time I am presented with an opportunity to bless him or her. I thank God that He’s helped me to overcome my old childish ways.
At the same time, I will also never be able to out-give my mentors; I don’t think they expect me to anyway. And just as my mentors have invested their time, energy and resources into me, I have done likewise, but I paid it forward to my mentees. I am convince that when we start to give without expecting anything in return, we become liberated gift-givers and blessing-bringers. I cannot deny how God has blessed me over the years and each time He blesses me through someone to remind me of His faithfulness, I can’t help but to be liberated and encouraged to be even more generous with my friends.
My friends, we will never be able to out-give God and it’d be crazy if we tried to out-give one another. May I then encourage all of us to give unreservedly, love unconditionally and expect absolutely nothing in return – especially to those who are in need. When all of us get involved in meeting each other’s needs, no one will be in need anymore. I don’t subscribe to the “full circle” theory, but you never know, one day all these blessings may return to you, but will probably end up with your children instead. I am half-confident to know that my youths – the ones whom I’m investing my life into right now – will, in time to come, invest their lives into my children and my children’s children.
Let’s pay it forward, for the valueless payment we receive for paying forward actually has the greatest payback value of all.
One dollar to a poor man is as valuable as one dollar to a rich man. Having lots of one dollars does not change the value of one dollar. Both men are limited to the same available activities and purchasing power that one dollar innately offers. However a dollar spent in Shanghai will yield different things as opposed to a dollar spent in Seoul or Singapore. There are a lot of thoughts on this that I could elucidate, but I will not.
It gets me thinking about the way we ought to spend our money. In recent years I’ve progressed from being a frivolous spender to a prudent one. (And how I thank God for that!) I’ve always remembered the wise words of CS that, “It’s not how much you earn, but how much you save”, that really matters.
HY and I are obviously presented with a more challenging financial situation now. However, what I am spending now is not far from what I was spending when I received a lot more. Simply put, our quality of life has not worsened. The only difference is a reduction in how much I get to save and invest. I also genuinely believe that I’d have lived the same quality of life with the same spending philosophies (being frugal) even if I wasn’t working in church. In a nutshell, it doesn’t mean that just because I have more, means I have to spend more.
I do not think that anyone around us can honestly say that his or her needs are not met. It’s always about the wants that we struggle with. Hence, I concur that expenses should be borne out of necessity and perhaps, very occasionally, some frivolity (just to pamper ourselves). But should we get that order confused and start living in indulgence, we will never be satisfied because we will always want something more.
One key then, is contentment. All I know is that naked I came and naked I will go. The last thing I’d want is to live a life that cannot let go of itself. Let’s not get carelessly caught up in meaningless pursuits – we can’t keep anything we own anyway.
Another key, which tends to be overlooked in the light of contentment, is stewardship. We must be careful in being good stewards of our resources (of time, energy and money) because at the end of the day our stewardship will be audited by God. We must understand that nothing we own belongs to us in the first place; we’re just being put in charge of it for the appointed time. We must effort to hold fast to what we believe in and not compare it with how others are spending their resources – they will be held accountable for their decisions.
The last and most important key, is trusting in God. It is this key that allows me to look forward in hope, knowing that God will go before me and will equip, empower, enrich and enable me to do His purpose, for His glory.
I know I have veered off a little from the intended subject of this post, but I hope that all of us will examine the way we approach the value of money and to spend it wisely, appropriately and with purpose, and not for the sake of spending it.