5 Extraordinary Stories About Giving

CrossAs a reader of ChristianPF, I assume that you agree with this statement: “Even if you pay off every debt, build a fully funded emergency fund, invest wisely for retirement, save for your children’s college fund, and pay off your house early, you could still be missing the most important personal finance principle: giving!

But agreeing and becoming a zealous giver are not the same thing. Hopefully, these amazing stories will inspire you (and me) to become better givers.

1The Man Who Gave 90 Percent

R. G. LeTourneau (1888 – 1969) was a Christian industrialist who dedicated his life to “being a businessman for God.” He was hugely successful, designing and developing his own line of earth-moving equipment.

LeTourneau was the maker of nearly 300 inventions, and had hundreds of patents in his lifetime. As he succeeded financially, he increased his giving to the point where he was giving 90% of his income to the Lord’s work.

I shovel out the money, and God shovels it back—but God has a bigger shovel. – R. G. LeTourneau

You may be thinking, “I could give 90% too if I was a multi-millionaire.” Maybe so, but LeTourneau didn’t start out wealthy.

A gentle challenge: Whatever percentage of your income you are currently giving, make a lifelong plan to bump that percentage with every opportunity.

2The Poor Widow Whose Giving Impresses Jesus

Sometimes the sacrifice speaks louder than the size of the gift, as in this story:

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

– Mark 12:41-45 NIV

A gentle challenge: Consider increasing your giving (whether money, time, or talents) beyond mere convenience and into the realm of sacrifice.

3The Priest of Auschwitz

During the Second World War, Polish Priest Maximilian Kolbe was arrested by the German Gestapo for hiding Jews and Polish refugees from the Nazis. When three prisoners disappeared from the Auschwitz concentration camp, the deputy camp commander issued orders to pick ten men to be starved to death in order to deter further escape attempts. One of these ten, Franciszek Gajowniczek, began to cry out, “My wife! My children! I will never see them again!” At this point, Kolbe stepped forward, removed his cap, and said, “I am a Catholic Priest. Let me take his place. I am old. He has a wife and children.” Amazingly, the commander allowed the request.

In the starvation cell, he celebrated Mass each day and sang hymns with his fellow prisoners. After two weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe remained alive. Because the cell was needed for other prisoners, he was given a lethal injection. Those present say he raised his left arm and calmly waited for the injection.

A gentle challenge: Keep your mind open about how you may serve others. Avoid self-imposed limitations . . . God may have something bigger in store for you.

4A Pastor’s Act of Kindness Saves Three

The following story is told in more detail by Ilene Wright. Here is my abbreviated version:

Years ago, Ilene’s preacher noticed the family standing in front of him at a New Orleans convenience store did not have enough money to pay for their few items. He tapped the man on the shoulder and said, “You don’t need to turn around, but please accept this money.” The man took the money without ever seeing the preacher.

Nine years later, the pastor was invited to speak at a church in New Orleans. After the service, a man walked up to the preacher and shared this story about how he had come to faith in Christ: “Several years ago, my wife and our child were destitute. We had lost everything, had no jobs, no money and were living in our car. We also lost all hope, and agreed to a suicide pact, including our child. However, we decided to first give our son some food, so we drove to a convenience store to buy him some food and milk.”

“While we were standing in line at the store, we realized that we did not have enough money to pay for these items, but a man behind us asked us to please take the money from his hand and not look at him. This man told us that ‘Jesus loves you.’”

“We left the store, drove to our designated suicide site, and wept for hours. We couldn’t go through with it, so we drove away. As we drove, we noticed a church with a sign out front which said, ‘Jesus love you.’ We went to that church the very next Sunday, and both my wife and I were saved that day.”

He then told the pastor, “When you began speaking this morning, I knew immediately that you were the man who gave us that money.” How did he know? The pastor was from South Africa and had a very distinct accent. He continued, “Your act of kindness was much more than a simple good deed. Three people are alive today because of it.”

A gentle challenge: Maintain your spiritual antennae, remembering that God can multiply the smallest gift many times over.

5The Father Who Gave His Most Precious Possession

There once was a father who loved his children, but they didn’t love him. One after another left their father’s house, vowing never to return. Finally, the father had a son who reciprocated that love. This son honored, respected, and obeyed his father. The father was thrilled, but he still mourned over his other children who had rejected him. He then came up with a plan – a risky plan: “I will give up my beloved son to make room in my house for my wayward children to return. Hopefully, they will realize my love for them and come back home.”

You may recognize this vignette as the story told in the book of John:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16 NIV

No list of extraordinary giving stories could be complete without including this one. I hope you agree.

A gentle challenge: Commit your family to the Lord – no strings attached.

Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” My hope is that you experience this blessedness that Jesus promises.

What motivates you to give? Which of these stories speaks most deeply to you? Do you have an amazing giving story to share? Leave a comment below!

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  1. Aaron

    These are great Joe. One of my favorites is the story of William Borden – who came from the wealthy Borden family (dairy products). After graduating from Yale, he decides to head off to China as a missionary but eventually dies from meningitis at age 25. He leaves $1 million to a missionary organization and they discover that he barely owned anything (no car, etc) even though he could afford most any thing. His motto, “no reserves, no retreat and no regrets” is a reminder of how to live a bold, Christian life.

    • Joe Plemon

      Wow…I hadn’t heard the story of Borden, but it is a great one. It is one thing to “give it all” when one doesn’t have anything to start with, but for a millionaire to do so is truly inspirational. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. W at Off-Road Finance

    I think an excellent example is Sal Dimiceli: http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/07/28/cnnheroes.dimiceli/index.html

  3. peter from india

    Inspiring Stories, Well Done

  4. David

    Great article Joe. I had heard about Maximilian Kolbe before but I never knew the details of his story. Thank you.

  5. Lydia

    Thank you for sharing those inspirational stories!

  6. JP Adams

    Thanks for another interesting post Joe. I like the idea of adding a ‘bump’ to the percentage you give away. I think automating withdrawals or deductions to contribute to a charity is a great way to make this step sustainable.

    I didn’t expect this post to help me think about how I can give in non financial ways as well, but it did.

    When I was out of work a few years ago I had a couple family members help cover some of my living expenses. They did it quietly and without ask for anything in return. I hope that I can play that role for a loved one down the road.

    My company has an international volunteering day each year. Every employee across dozens of offices volunteers in their local community. It’s a great reminder for us to step outside of our small insular worlds and contribute to those in need.

    • Joe Plemon

      Thanks JP — I hadn’t considered automating withdrawals which are earmarked for charity (we simply write checks every month), but I have always liked the principle of automating — we do so for savings. Good idea.

      Wishing you well as you hope to play the same giving role some of your family did for you when you were in need. I am sure you will be able to do so many time over!

  7. mariel

    These stories are amazing! It made me think about what I do as a Christian. The story of RG Le Tourneau really made me question myself. I just have a question about tithing. How much should you really give to your church? Some say10% of your salary. Should it then be on gross amount or net amount (taxes and other deductions)? What if what you earn doesn’t even make ends meet?

    I was once in church and the collection basket was being passed and for some reason I was compelled to give more than what I normally give but brushed the thought aside because the rational mind was telling me that we have to penny pinch because we have bills to pay. I know it is quite “un-Christian” to be counting but how do you discern what to give?


  8. Joe Plemon

    Yes, Cherry Ann, amazing giving stories are plentiful today and not limited to the Bible. We don’t give, of course, in order to receive. But when we give freely, God will find many ways to bless us.

  9. melodie mancera

    the story that impress me better is a story which the pastor show kindness and said that Jesus love you more and because of that it is the way that they were keep near to Jesus. and for me it remind me to show always kind to everybody.

  10. Stephan Weber

    This is the first time I have come across your blog Joe – researching what the bible says about giving – and wow whata powerful post. Excellent stories with great examples of how we can livea life of giving. The most for me is the story of the minister who have to family to buy food – you never know how far reaching your empathy goes