A $10,000 Lesson We’ll Never Forget

Our relationship with money often reflects our relationship with God. In college I was challenged to start living a lifestyle of generosity. Since then I’ve learned a lot about God’s generosity, but it hasn’t always been easy.

In 2006 my wife Andrea and I received an unexpected inheritance of $10,000 from her grandparents. In line with the giving habits we developed in college, we immediately gave away 10% of it to fellow missionaries. We deposited the rest in savings for an opportune time to replace our aging Chevy Venture minivan.

Shortly after, we felt the Lord’s invitation to do something radical with this money (and not just spend it on a new vehicle). So, we gave it all to the global poor at Urbana 2006. For both of us, giving that inheritance was a wonderfully freeing act of obedience that brought great joy.

Around the same time as our Urbana gift, a cancerous breast tumor began growing in Andrea. In April 2007, Andrea was diagnosed with an aggressive Stage II cancer at the age of 35. Our three children were 8, 6, and 2 at the time. The diagnosis launched us into time of crisis, and the statistics were not comforting. She had a 50/50 chance of surviving longer than 10 years. With surgery, chemo and hormone therapy, her prognosis would improve to an 85% chance of surviving, but the road ahead would be difficult.

And, it would be an expensive experience. Medical bills, genetic testing, additional child care expenses, etc.  Thankfully, so many people rallied to our side. Our small group from church paid for regular laundry and house cleaning expenses, and checks came in the mail to help with bills, meals, wigs, etc.

Then, in June, a small miracle happened. I opened the mailbox and found an unsolicited check from our church. Can you guess how much it was for? Yes, $10,000!  Our church knew nothing about the inheritance we’d given away. With this second $10k gift in the same year, God was telling us that he would provide all that we needed.

Oh, remember that dying Chevy Venture? Again, completely unsolicited and with no idea about the inheritance we gave away, in August my parents decided to give us their relatively new Honda Odyssey, worth probably $25,000!

After chemotherapy was complete, we were prompted to go back and recount God’s goodness through his people. We estimated that we received $50,000-$60,000 within one year of giving away the $10,000. Throughout this experience, our motto has become “We cannot out-give God.”

It Started in College

So, how does this story apply to college?

Well, it was in college that Andrea and I learned to embody Biblical principles of stewardship and generosity. We were motivated to think differently about money from the teachings of Jesus, such as “Whoever can be trusted with little can be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10).

Our InterVarsity chapter did the same. Rather than hosting a bunch of mini-fundraisers, many of us committed to give 5-10% of our summer earnings to support our chapter’s new student outreach efforts, evangelism goals, global mission projects—and even our staff members. When several students began giving $100, $200 or $500, it snowballed into thousands of dollars. Those funds, along with a zeal for the campus and daily dependence on God, fueled an eight-year expansion of our chapter from 40 to 350.

Looking back, I can see how God was entrusting us with more (people and influence) for being faithful with a little (money). And, we embodied Jesus’ invitation to use college wealth to invest in the eternal destiny of others.

Be Faithful with Little

As summer draws to a close, chapters begin gathering together again with big vision and big plans for reaching and renewing their campuses. I want to encourage you togive. Consider giving $100, $200 or $500 of your summer earnings to your InterVarsity chapter and/or staff.

This will not be easy. That’s a lot of money for a college student. But, take the risk. Trust Jesus.

Then, watch how God will bless and multiply your giving. I believe you’ll experience God outgiving you, just like Andrea and I have seen over and over again in our lives.

This discipline of generosity in college will ideally build into a lifestyle of generosity after you graduate. Soon after college, Andrea and I got married and committed to giving away 15-20% of our InterVarsity staff salaries. There’s yet to be a year when God has not “out-given” us and provided for all of our needs.

You can’t out-give God. Just try it.

Jason Thomas

National Field Director

Jason is the National Field Director for the South Central U.S. He  oversees four regions of campus ministry covering 14 states and 7500 students. He has served on staff 17 years and led a turnaround effort in the Red River Region (TX, OK, AR) to improve the morale, financial stability and impact of the region. Jason is married to Andrea who is the Director of Marketing for InterVarsity. They live in Austin with their three children. Jason loves to play sports, read leadership books, watch movies, and travel.