Join us for Eastminster’s 40acts Challenge to live generously for the next 40 days! Learn more.
Imagine turning up to buy something, only to find you haven’t brought enough money. You apologize and start to move away, but the assistant says you can take it because someone else has already paid. The stuff of fantasy? Not if you become part of a growing momentum of pre-paying on behalf of the needy.
GREEN: Leave coins taped to a car-park ticket machine.
AMBER: Find an outlet near you where you can buy drinks for the homeless to collect later.
RED: Contact a Christian holiday center and ask if they have a bursary scheme whereby you can offer to pay towards a guest’s stay.
“‘The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”’”Luke 10:35 NIV
There’s a detail at the end of the parable of the Good Samaritan so small you could almost miss it: the Samaritan pays for the injured traveller’s care at an inn, promising to cover all further expenses on his way back.
With this gesture, the stranger does far more than simply noticing the traveller and helping him to safety: he involves himself, promises to return and generously gives an indefinite amount of his own money to ensure the traveller’s continued rest and healing. This is not just a brief helping hand, a question of being in the right place at the right time; it’s the start of a relationship.
In the United States, a charity called RIP Medical Debt was set up in 2014 to cancel the crippling costs of unexpected medical expenses which land so many people in unpayable debt. Donations to the charity result in a yellow envelope arriving at a stranger’s home with a simple, life-changing message: your debt is paid. One recipient on their website said: ‘I was going through the worst year of my life… this act of kindness has given me strength and raised me up.’ Perhaps we can imagine the traveller in the parable feeling a similar relief: now he can get on with recovering, worry-free.
I wonder whether Jesus saw Himself in the Good Samaritan, the strange rescuer who puts down a payment and promises to return? The last word Jesus said on the cross, often translated as ‘it is finished’, can carry a sense of a completed payment. In John 14:2–3, Jesus says He has gone to prepare a place for us and will come again. When we reach His Father’s house, we will find that our room has already been paid for.
Amy is the author of Image of the Invisible (BRF) and a children’s trilogy called Gladstone the Gargoyle (Palm Tree Press).