God’s Law of Returns
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Money was scarce when I was growing up. I never lacked anything vital, but I never had so much that I could casually give something away without feeling the pinch.
Once when I was 17, a homeless person asked me for some money. I had been taught that giving brought good things back to you, so I calculated how much money I needed for my train fare home and gave him the rest—around ¥500, or roughly US$7. It was difficult giving away my last bit of pocket money. While I can’t say that because I gave $7 I got back X dollars in return, I do know that over the years I’ve received enough back to firmly believe in the “law of returns.”
Jesus expressed the law of returns like this: “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”1
Notice how it doesn’t say “the amount you give will equal the amount you get back.” It says it will “determine” the amount. In fact, when you give, you often get back above the amount you gave, like the story of the boy who gave his lunch to Jesus.2 There was a need—5,000 hungry people—and there was the boy’s offering—five loaves, two fish. Nothing outstanding at first glance, but just look at what Jesus did with it!
My two-year-old nephew likes to share his food. It doesn’t matter what he’s eating or even whether it’s something he likes or not, he always wants me to taste it as well—even if it’s his favorite flavor of potato chips or ice cream. His apparent trust that there’s more where that came from makes giving easy. But as adults, we know that things run out, and that makes giving more difficult.
It’s at such times, though—when we feel like we’re down to our last crumb of goodness, compassion, time, or whatever—that we should remember that God has more where that came from, and He isn’t worried about running out.—Roald Watterson
The principle of the harvest
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”—2 Corinthians 9:6–73
The principle of sowing and reaping applies to every area of life, not just finances. Whatever you sow in life, you’re going to reap. Whatever you deposit is going to be returned to you. If you sow criticism in life, you are going to reap criticism from other people. If you sow kindness, you’re going to reap kindness. It’s the law of the harvest. If you plant apple seeds, you don’t get pears; you get apples. If you sow with generosity, you will reap generosity.
This is the principle of the harvest: Whenever you have a need, plant a seed. When a farmer looks at his barren fields, he doesn’t gripe about it. He just goes out and starts planting some seed. If he only has a little bit of seed, he has a choice. He can either hoard it or he can give it away. If he holds on to it, that’s all he’s got. If he gives it away, God will multiply it. The amazing thing is this: You don’t just reap what you sow. You always reap more than you sow!
God set it up this way because he wants you to become like him. God is a giver. The only way that you’re ever going to become like him is to learn to be generous. When you’re stingy, you’re like the Devil. When you’re generous, you’re like God. When you give it away, God multiplies it.
This sounds illogical—to give away when you have a need so that you will get more back. But that’s why it requires faith! God says the way you get is by giving, not by holding on.—Rick Warren4
57 cents that made history
A sobbing little girl stood near a small church from which she had been turned away because it “was too crowded.” “I can’t go to Sunday school,” she sobbed to the pastor as he walked by. Seeing her shabby, unkempt appearance, the pastor guessed the reason, and taking her by the hand, took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday school class. The child was so touched that she went to bed that night thinking of the children who have no place to worship Jesus.
Some two years later, this child lay dead in one of the poor tenement buildings, and the parents called for the kind-hearted pastor, who had befriended their daughter, to handle the final arrangements. As her poor little body was being moved, a worn and crumpled purse was found which seemed to have been rummaged from some trash dump. Inside was found 57 cents and a note scribbled in childish handwriting which read, “This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday school.”
For two years she had saved for this offering of love. When the pastor tearfully read that note, he knew instantly what he would do. Carrying this note and the cracked, red pocketbook to the pulpit, he told the story of her unselfish love and devotion. He challenged his deacons to get busy and raise enough money for the larger building. But the story does not end there!
A newspaper learned of the story and published it. It was read by a realtor who offered them a parcel of land worth many thousands. When told that the church could not pay so much, the realtor offered it for a 57 cent payment.
Church members made large subscriptions. Checks came from far and wide. Within five years the little girl’s gift had increased to $250,000, a huge sum for that time (around the beginning of the 20th century). Her unselfish love had paid large dividends.
When you are in the city of Philadelphia, look up Temple Baptist Church, with a seating capacity of 3,300, and Temple University, where hundreds of students are trained. Have a look, too, at the Good Samaritan Hospital and at a Sunday school building which houses hundreds of Sunday scholars, so that no child in the area will ever need to be left outside at Sunday school time.
In one of the rooms of this building may be seen the picture of the sweet face of the little girl whose 57 cents, so sacrificially saved, made such remarkable history. Alongside of it is a portrait of her kind pastor, Dr. Russell H. Conwell.—A true story, contributed by Kay McCrary
Published on Anchor November 2018. Read by Jerry Paladino.
Music by Michael Dooley.
1 Luke 6:38 NLT.
2 John 6:9–13.