Turkey with leaves and oranges for christmas and thanksgivingBy Ben Clark

It was Thanksgiving weekend in the year 2000. I had just graduated from high school the year before. My friends and I loaded down my very first car, a 1991 Ford Taurus station wagon, with so much food that the back of the car literally scraped against the ground when we went over bumps. I had about 20 Thanksgiving meals to deliver to some needy people. We had contacted them through a church plant that I was a part of called St. Paul City Church.

I had been buzzing through neighborhoods all morning, dropping off meals, saying an emphatic “Happy Thanksgiving! God Bless you!” and then moving along to the next drop. Around noon we got to a house over on the East side. That’s when things took a turn…

I knocked on the door and a woman answered. She clearly had a rough life and was trying to make ends meet with nine children living in her home, many of them nieces and nephews. “Hey! Happy Thanksgiving! God bless you!” I offered her the meal and her response about knocked me over. She looked at me, looked at the food and asked, “What do I do with this? I’ve never had a Thanksgiving meal before.”  

That question was a question that changed my life and my perspective. It opened up the door for me to truly understand what Thanksgiving was all about. I had celebrated 20 Thanksgivings in my life — enjoying family, going around the table each saying one thing we were most thankful for (while rolling our eyes of course), eating to the point that we complained about how full we were, sitting on the couch and falling asleep from all the tryptophan and football, waking up, getting a second wind, playing games, eating more…

What does the Bible mean in Acts 20:33-35? “I have never coveted anyone’s silver or gold or fine clothes. You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me. And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

A year after that encounter I had an experience that answered that question. I was sitting in a tiny Gypsy village in the small country of Macedonia. I spent a few days with a family there as a part of a missions outreach. From my perspective, they had nothing. Yet when it came time for me to move on to the next village, they gave me one of the most extravagant meals I have ever had. I can almost guarantee it was a meal that they would only have once in a lifetime. All this for me??? I thought.

This was the same Macedonian culture that Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5: “Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.”

As I ate, I remembered back to the year before and what it had done in my heart to be able to be generous to someone else. I remembered how, when I was walking down the sidewalk of the woman’s house, I had a radical encounter with the Father heart of God! I had seen a new dimension of God’s love for people. And as I sat in this Gypsy village, feeling the tension of being so extravagantly blessed by these people who had nothing, I prayed that the Holy Spirit would bless them and show them that same expression of the Father’s heart.

Joy in GenerosityI wonder if that is how Jesus had more authority than anyone to say that it is more blessed to give than to receive? Ultimately, He gave everything. I wonder at the revelation of the Father’s heart that had been poured into Him. Could He honestly have joy set before him – enough to endure the cross? Was it joyful for him to lay down his life?


2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.”

He could truly say that it is more blessed to give than to receive. It’s been quite a learning process in my life, but I agree with him.

Where is God calling YOU to be generous? What would a generous heart look like as a leader? What would this kind of generosity look like in your ministry?


Ben Clark is Youth Pastor at Bethel Christian Fellowship in St. Paul, MN.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.