I had lunch on Wednesday with a dear friend, Carey Nieuwhof. We don’t get together all that often because of busy schedules, but when we do, it’s always a joy to catch up, picking up from where we left off. Friends like that are a blessing indeed. It’s just icing on the cake that Carey is a top-shelf leader in the Christian faith, and I get to learn from what God is doing in his life each time we get together.
We spent a couple of hours talking about life and faith and church, and when the waitress came with our bill, we kept on talking for a bit. Before it was paid (Carey had grabbed it in his kind way), the waitress came back and said to us, “I have some good news for you. A guy who was in here earlier saw you and paid your bill for you. He said something about ‘Emmanuel’.”
Carey and I just smiled, and said, “Thank you!” The waitress seemed a bit amazed at this pay-it-forward experience. As it turns out, the guy who had paid the bill for us was one of the staff at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Barrie. There are a few larger congregations in the south end of Barrie that support and encourage one another, and both Emmanuel and Carey’s congregation, Connexus Community Church, are among them. This kindness serves both as an encouragement to the pastors, as well as a witness to the wait staff in the restaurant (and I’m guessing they do this in more restaurants than the little Thai place where we were).
We all understand the concept of paying back someone when we owe that person something. But the pay-it-forward concept is a bit newer for many of us. Occasionally, we’ll hear of someone who does this at a coffee shop drive-thru, for the person in the vehicle behind – even if the person is completely unknown to the first driver. It gives us warm fuzzies, knowing that there is such generosity among our fellow human beings, even in a “medium double-double”-sized way. But have you ever thought of paying it forward as a witness for your faith?
There’s a pathetic old joke that asks, “What’s the difference between Christians and canoes?” The answer? “Canoes tip.” God’s people don’t exactly have the best reputation for generosity in restaurants. I’ve known wait staff who have hated working the Sunday afternoon shift for just that reason. By being authentically generous, however, we can aid our witness. That doesn’t mean we’re buying a positive view of the Christian faith, but it does mean doing all we can to destroy the concept that followers of Jesus are cheapskates!
Let me encourage you to pay it forward for someone else. Who knows what seeds you may sow as a result?
“It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20.36b, NLT).