OPENING ACTIVITY: Defining a Generous Person
Write this statement on a board or sheet of newsprint and ask students how they would complete it. Write their responses down as well: A generous person is someone who…
A generous person could be someone who readily gives more of something, such as money or time, than is necessary or expected. Examples could include tithing more than 10% or volunteering a significant portion of one’s talents or time for the benefit of others.
OPENING STORY: [Read the story aloud or make copies and pass them around.]
‘YOUR DEBT IS COMPLETELY GONE’
The actions of a local news organization inspired one Texas church to pay the medical bills of people they don’t even know.
NBC 5 (which serves the Dallas-Fort Worth area) launched a major initiative in February to help those drowning in medical bills. Partnering with RIP Medical Debt, they were able to buy and forgive $2 million in outstanding medical debts for about 2,000 families in North Texas. RIP was inaugurated in 2014 by Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton, two former collection industry executives. Believing that “debt forgiveness is a collective message of care from and for communities,” they founded RIP with the sole purpose of “buying and forgiving medical debt with funds donated by caring communities.” RIP uses donations it receives to buy medical debts for pennies on the dollar from insurance companies, hospitals, and medical practices. Once in possession of these debts, rather than try to collect them, RIP essentially writes them off; it “forgives” those who owe the debt with no strings attached, a “gift made possible by complete strangers—a random act of kindness.”
Stephen Hayes, pastor of Covenant Church, a church of 8,000 in Carrollton, Texas, heard about NBC 5’s medical debt initiative and wanted to do something similar through his own church. Hayes recognized that many churches of similar size often spend tens of thousands of dollars to send out brochures to their communities to advertise their Easter services. In lieu of doing that this year, Hayes encouraged Covenant Church to give that money to RIP. The church ended up donating $100,000 which according to RIP paid off $10,551,618 in medical bills, eliminating the debts of over 4,000 families in the area the church serves.
Hayes’s motivation to encourage his church to be generous in this fashion wasn’t simply to be altruistic; it was also personal. He knows what it is like to be buried in medical bills. When he was 17, Hayes was hit by a car. He spent 12 days in ICU and his family struggled to pay off the staggering amount of medical bills that accumulated. Many in his church prayed for him. But his church also gave him and his family significant financial assistance. One of the reasons Hayes wanted to partner with RIP was to return to others what had been given so generously to him.
Hayes also wanted to tie the message of financial forgiveness with the Easter message that our spiritual debts have been forgiven. Paying off the medical bills of those in debt was one way the church could illustrate to their community the forgiveness of spiritual debt that is available to everyone because of what Jesus did on the Cross. Each family that got its medical bills forgiven received a letter from the church that said, “We are Covenant Church and we are local in this area and can serve you in any way, and we would love to be your church. But even if we don’t get to meet you, just know that God loves you.” Hayes reminded his congregation that “Jesus sent them similar letters in the Gospels, which tell of the sacrificial love He was for them by dying on the Cross and welcoming them to new life.”
Have your students form small groups to discuss the answers to these questions.
- What are some ways you or your church already give faithfully and generously?
- Why is it important that we do this? What can happen if we don’t?
- How is your church giving now to the local community?
(When you are finished with the questions, go on to Step 2 in your Adult Teacher’s Guide.)
RIP is working to forgive $1 billion in medical debt for Americans!
North Texans React to Medical Debt Crisis, NBC 5 Initiative
NBC 5 Pays Off $2 Million in Medical Debt for North Texans
Carrollton’s Covenant Church Donates $100,000 to Forgive Medical Debt
Texas Church Pays Off over $10 Million Medical Debt in Easter Gift to Local Families
‘Your Debt Is Completely Gone’: Church Helps 4,000 Families with a $10.5M Blessing
Looking for Steps 2 & 3?
You can find Steps 2 and 3 in your teacher’s guide; your Step 4 appears below. To purchase a teacher's guide, please visit: Bible-in-Life or Echoes
DON’T HOLD BACK
One of the ways we can show what Jesus is like is through our willingness to give to others and the degree of generosity with which we do so.
God told the Israelites that they were to give from the first fruits of their harvest and not from the leftovers. We can do something similar by giving faithfully from our own first fruits; that shows gratefulness for the blessings God has given us and a desire to share our blessings with others. Giving from our first fruits reflects the heart of a generous person who cares deeply about the needs of others and who takes from his or her resources early and often to help meet those needs.
Ask students to return to the groups they had in Step 1 to discuss the following:
- In what ways can you and your church give more faithfully to God and more generously to others?
Close in prayer. Thank God for the love He has for us and for the ways He meets our needs, and pray for ways to be more faithful and generous in your giving to Him and to others.
THE BIBLE IN THE NEWS
The apostle Paul has become suddenly more “popular” these days
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