This week we released a new book called Christ Centered Generosity: Global Perspectives on the Biblical Call to a Generous Life (Kingdom Life Publishing, 2015). In this inspiring book thirty-three authors from twenty-two countries share stories and reflections on biblical generosity from their cultural context.
I was privileged to serve as the general editor and read through many compelling stories from our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. I want to share one story with you from the book that especially touched me. It is from my friend Samuel Chiang. I pray it will encourage you as well.
The Old Woman and Her Tree
By Samuel Chiang (United States and Hong Kong)
Some time ago, I was sitting on a little wooden stool at the back of an open church in China. The church had been built a few years back, and as I was sitting low on the wooden stool, there were some people standing at the windows outside, peering into the church as worship was due to commence.
One of the church leaders came to me and told me proudly who had donated the wooden stools. The name was lost on me. Then the same church leader insisted that I had been to her home, and I had to shuffle through my memory until finally I recalled this old woman. But how could this be? How did she manage to donate all the wooden stools? Where did she get the money?
Her home was a thatched-roof dwelling with two small rooms that provided a place for rest and a room to cook in, as well as entertain guests. I recalled walking into this house; her walls were caked with the residue of smoke and oil that had come from her cooking, and there was no electricity. And in her yard there was one single, large tree.
When the pastor of this open church had called for the congregants to give so that the new church could be built, this lady wanted to give. But she was poor, and she did not know how.
One day she came out of her home and looked around the yard. She saw that singular tree and wanted to donate it. Since she did not have a telephone in her place, she went next door and used the neighbor’s landline to call the pastor’s mobile phone. She told the pastor how she was going to donate to the church. The pastor said no, and they had an argument on the phone.
The old lady wanted to donate the only tree in her yard, but she was the only living person left in her clan. Some twenty years earlier, when her older relatives were dying and knew there would be no one to take care of her as she grew old, they planted a tree for her. In China, dying alone is a problem, as no one knows who will take care of you. The plan was that when this old woman died, her neighbor would come and cut down the tree, turn it horizontal, dig out the middle, place her body into it, and use it as a casket to bury her with dignity.
After arguing with the older woman, the pastor relented (as he would, because the younger person always respects the older). He and other members of the church came to cut down the tree and then carted it to the old church to put it on display so that all could see what this old woman had done.
The church rejoiced with her! They made wooden stools from that tree.
The plan was to cut down a living tree so as to put a dead body in it and bury it in the ground. Now, the plan changed so that a living tree was cut down and made into wooden stools. Then, the “spiritually dead” people who were outside of the church could sit on these dead wooden stools, and as they heard and received the Gospel, they could become “living” souls.
This old woman was shrewd in exchanging resources so as to welcome others into the Kingdom.
I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. (Luke 16:9)
When she died soon thereafter, did that local church take care of her? Absolutely!
What trees are standing around you that God is calling you to put to use for His work?
You can order Christ Centered Generosity at www.kingdomlifepublishing.com