A high school student recognized that Christian stewardship means more than putting money in the offering plate.
“He isn’t wearing anything except a T-shirt and boxers!” my friend Gustavo exclaimed as Chris entered the dorm.
“I noticed,” I replied, and the thought crossed my mind, What are these crazy seniors up to now?
It was another Sabbath afternoon at Maxwell Adventist Academy, a boarding school for missionary kids in East Africa. I was sitting in the lobby of the boys’ dorm waiting for vespers and—more important to me—supper. Chris was a senior who could be described by us lowly freshmen only as “cool.” He wore the coolest clothes, always said the right things, and had no problem attracting the girls. As a result, we all wondered why in the world he would be outside the dorm wearing only his underwear. However, we did not have much time to speculate before worship started.
I was hungry and had a hard keeping my mind focused on what the speaker was saying. However, right before closing prayer, something caught my attention. The pastor was reading from the Gospels: “A poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.’ ”1
That verse stayed with me all the way through the supper line. When I sat down at the table with my friends, a girl at the table was in the middle of telling a story. “He brought almost all his clothes to the mission outreach to give them to the poor people.”
“Wait, who are we talking about?” I interrupted.
“Chris.” She paused to make sure I understood. “He brought almost all his clothes to town today.”
Now I was interested!
She continued, “Anyway, we started off by singing praise songs, and then we handed out food for the people who came. After that, for about an hour, we just talked with them about Jesus. Chris gave away all his clothes to a young guy with a really torn-up outfit and invited him to come to church next Sabbath. The guy seemed really happy, but said he couldn’t go because he didn’t have any church clothes to wear. Chris smiled and said it wouldn’t be a problem. Then he took off the clothes he was wearing—he hadn’t changed out of his church clothes—and gave them to the guy, shoes and all!”
She went on about how much fun the outreach had been, but I was not listening anymore; I was completely taken aback.
Chris’s selfless action put the verse I’d heard earlier into perspective. The story wasn’t new to me, but it hadn’t been real to me either. By putting Scripture into action, Chris didn’t affect just the poor man. He touched me too. If the pastor had done the same act, I am not sure if it would have had nearly the impact on me. Chris was someone that I looked up to, not so much as a “holy” figure, but as an older, more mature peer. I think God knew that as well.
As often happens with spiritual experiences, they dim and we need a reminder. Well, for me it only took a few days for the experience to begin dimming. I didn’t understand the significance of altering one person’s spiritual life. It was not until the next Sabbath that I finally understood the full weight of what Chris had done.
I was sitting in church with a group of friends when Chris walked by wearing a pair of borrowed pants. With him was a stranger—the man Chris had helped—and he’d come to church just as Chris had invited him to!
The sermon began, and as usual, I had difficulty keeping my attention focused on the pastor’s words.
However, this week he again quoted a verse that caught my ear: “I tell you that in the same way there will be rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”2
As I sat there, it all began to click. Chris hadn’t just clothed an unclothed man; he’d caused a party in heaven! I didn’t hear any more of the sermon—I was too busy trying to imagine what a party in heaven must be like.
Joel Kotanko writes from Lincoln, Nebraska.