Generosity comes from your heart, not your bank balance
The inspiring cost of helping others with their physical and spiritual needs
I learned a lot during my time as a nurse. But the lesson that influenced me the most – that the distinctive mark of a true Christian is a generous heart that cares for the vulnerable – came from a friendship with my colleague, Betty.
One afternoon in 1979, Betty introduced me to her fiancé Allan, who worked as a health professional. We got talking and Allan shared a personal story with me. Allan was an intelligent, charming man and well qualified, but had struggled with an addiction to alcohol. Things weren’t looking promising when he was found in the gutter having an alcoholic seizure. Eventually, he was picked up and taken to hospital to be dried out. Unfortunately – or maybe fortunately – he was checked in to the hospital where he worked as a health professional and was immediately struck off the register.
He received both physical and spiritual care.
At the hospital, they dried him out then handed him over to Sydney City Mission, a Christian organisation devoted to helping the city’s homeless and vulnerable. Today it’s known as Mission Australia. Here, he received both physical and spiritual care. One of his favourite pastimes at the mission was the Sunday chapel service. There, he heard about the sacrificial love that was displayed by Jesus Christ – and decided to put his faith in him.
Seeing the transformation in Allan was completely remarkable. It was hard to believe that the story he had shared was true, as he was now doing so well. When Allan and Betty invited me along to see the City Mission, where Allan had lived as a recovering alcoholic, I couldn’t say no.
I visited on a Sunday. Before the chapel service, we went into an area where there were beds and there were some gentlemen there. They were clean and clothed but you could see that they were struggling.
I was very familiar with alcoholic types because of my work in an inner-city hospital. I knew what alcohol-affected men were like before they cleaned up – they were often aggressive with slurred speech. But in this chapel service I saw men who had been cleaned up, fed and cared for. I turned to look at Betty’s fiancé and saw the phenomenal difference that the Sydney City Mission had made in his life. In that moment I thought, “Right, this is an organisation I’m going to support.”
I realised what it meant to serve God, and here was another way of serving him.
I accepted Christ in 1959 as a child during a Billy Graham crusade. Even then, I realised what it meant to serve God, and here was another way of serving him.
The staff members at Sydney City Mission overflowed with kindness and compassion from the love that they had received from God themselves – and it was making an obvious impact. It inspired me.
When Jesus Christ was on earth, he was not the king people expected. He spent most of his time helping poor and vulnerable people – those who were rejected by society. And through both seeing this scene and reading the scriptures, I’m convinced that he calls his children to do likewise.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34) In this passage, Jesus tells his disciples that a devotion to loving people is a clear sign that they are following him. If you call yourself a Christian, loving and serving others is non-negotiable.
I’m not wealthy by any means, but I see the importance of sharing what I have when I can.
A generous heart in action will look different for different people. In my current position, I don’t have the capacity to look after the homeless in the way Sydney City Mission did. I can support their work, however.
Although I had been giving financially to various Christian organisations, after what I witnessed of Allan’s experience at Sydney City Mission it became very important to me to make contributions where I could. When I turned 40, I asked the guests at my birthday party to make a donation rather than giving me a gift. I did the same on my 50th birthday for Anglicare. Most recently, I visited a solicitor to seek help to complete my will and have included Mission Australia as a beneficiary.
I’m not wealthy by any means, but I see the importance of sharing what I have when I can. At times, that’s meant giving a very small amount, but small amounts can add up to be significant.
The love that God has shown us through giving his son Jesus Christ demands a response. What does this response look like for you?
Lois lives in Queensland and attends Scarborough Anglican Church where she is a liturgical assistant and mentors a weekly Bible study group. Mission Australia is a non-denominational Christian charity that has been helping vulnerable Australians move towards independence for more than 155 years.