To model generosity, one Sunday our staff placed $50 bills under three seats in our auditorium. Not even our elders knew the money was there, taped to the bottom of the plastic chairs upon which our people sat. When we told the congregation to look under their chairs, we also told them that if they found the money they couldn’t keep it. They had to give it away. We weren’t giving them $50; we were giving them the opportunity to give someone else $50.

Who knows if they did? Two of the recipients thanked us and promised they would, but I can’t recall if either of those people came back and let us know how things went. But the third $50 I remember very well. A young girl, no more than six or seven years old, found the money under her chair and began screaming with excitement. Since she was so little, she hadn’t been paying attention to our instructions and only checked under her chair at her father’s insistence.

But dad forgot to mention she couldn’t keep the money. Consequently, when he did tell her, those excited screams turned into bitter wails. And I mean wails. Howls of betrayal. Shrieks of disconsolate rage.

Her father tried to explain, as we had, that she was no worse off. She didn’t have $50 when she walked in the door, and she wouldn’t have $50 tomorrow morning after she’d given it away, either. All she would take with her was the joy of having blessed another person.

Nope. She wasn’t having it. Until my dying day I’ll be certain that little girl thinks we cheated her.

Aren’t we all like that, just a little? We’ve been blessed with much we have not earned, and we squeal when told to share what we’ve never truly owned. By choosing not to be a culvert for God’s generosity, we run the risk of damming the river only to have the water flow out of our eyes.

But the church of the future will break this cycle entirely. She will help her people rise above their momentary concerns and give as freely as they have received.

Adapted from Then.Now.Next.: A biblical vision of the church, the kingdom, and the future