A cloud of generous witnesses

Examples of other Christians’ faithfulness can have a powerful influence on us. We know this not only from our own experiences but from the Scriptures themselves. The book of Hebrews recounts for us the stories of the Old Testament saints, concluding, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

In God’s wisdom, the example of other saints is meant to stir us to greater faithfulness in our own lives. Take, for example, three especially generous Christians from recent history.
A friend of great ministers

Selena Shirley, also called Lady Huntington, was one of the first British royals to be affected by the 18th century awakening. After the death of her husband, she devoted her tremendous wealth and influence to spreading the gospel of grace throughout England through the ministry of preachers like John Wesley and George Whitefield.

What was the guiding principle behind Lady Huntington’s remarkable life? The words of Jesus come to mind: “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). Lady Huntington used her wealth and influence to spark a religious revival so great that its influence is felt even today.

Rich for the sake of generosity

The father of modern earth-moving equipment, R.G. LeTourneau, was among the few men who amassed a fortune during the United States Great Depression. He did this in spite of his giving away a large percentage of company profits.

Why did LeTourneau prosper so greatly at a time when millions of Americans were experiencing such poverty? We find an answer in the Scriptures, where it is written, “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion” (2 Corinthians 9:11).

R.G. LeTourneau’s life was an illustration of this principle. The Lord made him rich so that he could be generous at a time when the world needed generosity.

A pearl of great value

Stanley Tam, founder of United States Plastics, built a thriving business empire in the wake of the Great Depression. At the height of his career, Tam voluntarily demoted himself to an employee in the company and gave 100 percent of all profits to Christian missions.

Why would a successful businessman like Tam make decisions like these? He was like the merchant in Jesus’ parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46).

Tam gave away practically all he had because he had discovered a greater treasure, a “pearl of great price,” the very kingdom of God.

If the example of other saints is meant to stir us to faithfulness in our own lives, what can we gain from the stories of Lady Huntington, R.G. LeTourneau, and Stanley Tam? For one thing, they point us to the Scriptures. When we hear their stories, we hear afresh the words of Jesus and the apostles. Also, their lives show us that radical Christian generosity is a realistic goal.

Huntington, LeTourneau, and Tam were people just like us. What set them apart was the clarity with which they grasped the gospel and let it shape their lives…including their giving. The same is possible for us, too.

Mark Lloydbottom

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