I recently received this heartfelt letter.
Dear Beloved One,
My name is Sister Josan Nowak. My faithful Christian husband died in 2010 after brief illness that lasted only four days. I am without child and have no relatives to receive considerable inheritance left behind by Mr. Nowak. The money is kept safe in an account of the bank of Ivory Coast.
But now doctor tells me I have serious sickness with cancer problems. I have very disturbing stroke sickness with not much time to live. My dream is to donate 3.5 million to church that will utilize the funds for widows and orphans like it says in the Bible. Can you help widow like me to get this done in a timely manner?
May Almighty God bless you and use you to accomplish my dream.
PS. My relatives are not Christian and my husband’s efforts would be wasted on unbelievers. I’m sure they would use the funds in an ungodly manner.
Sister Josan Nowak
Adbijan, Ivory Coast
Dear Sister Nowak,
I am overwhelmed at your generous offer and almost moved to tears over your plight. While I would like to assist you in the fulfillment of such a worthy dream, I do not think that I am the guy for the job.
First of all, I have no idea what 3.5 million dollars looks like. I have about 85 bucks in my wallet and I have a hard enough time managing the money already in my possession. And of deepest concern to me is that there is more than a 50% chance that I would use at least some of the funds in an ungodly manner. Which means that my status as your Beloved One would no doubt come into question.
For example, I might build a million-dollar log home in the mountains of North Georgia somewhere. I could call it a home for widows and orphans, but that would prove to be nothing more than window dressing. The truth is that I would likely use it more as a personal retreat than for such noble Christian purposes.
Second, you suggest that you would like to donate the money to a church. While this is also noble of you, it seems to me that you have a limited understanding of how churches in my country operate. Contrary to popular opinion, the church here is full of sinners. Sinners who, like me, would turn into rabid fools if they came into close contact with 3.5 million dollars. Such a large sum of money would pose considerable temptation that could possibly change the very soul of the church, and not for the better.
Upon receipt of your funds, the fine folks of Sometown Church would first form a committee to study what to do with the money. Although mission work and orphans and widows would be on the table for discussion, there would be a strong contingent concerned about a new kitchen for potluck suppers. The current appliances have been in use since 1974 and they were bought used even then. Another group would want a new roof, and new roofs cost a boat load of money in these parts. Though 35,000 Ben Franklins would buy a big boat.
At least one person on the committee would express some honest concern about making sure that we are good stewards of The Lord’s money. “How do we know, if we give this money away, that it will be used for the Lord’s work and not to buy some fancy car for the Executive Director of the Mission?” This is a tricky question fraught with uncertainties, which usually stalls any productive discussion and causes the committee to form a sub-committee to study that question before any decision can be made.
Before you know it, the news spreads of the tainted money being held in the Church’s account. More ideas than you can shake a stick at start coming into the Pastor’s In Box. Everyone seems to know how the money should be spent. The poor man walks the floor at night popping Tums like they are candy because his new ulcer won’t let him sleep. The herd is divided and somehow it’s his fault. “Lead us not into temptation” is the prayer, but the money has taken root and divided the church.
I could not bear to be the one responsible for this kind of calamity among the Saints.
Sister Josan, here’s the thing about money, especially the kind that comes by the trailer load and free. Over the last 10 months or so, we have been experimenting with free money over here in the US in a way that is almost embarrassing. There was a time when folks traded something of value for something they needed.
For example, in the earliest days of this country men trapped beaver and fox. These men spent months out in the wilderness alone with nothing but their own skills and wits to survive on. They worked in snow and rain and cold and nearly half starved themselves gathering enough pelts in order to have something to trade for basic necessities. But their work was the key to living. They did it without hesitation and with great pride.
Later, as we became more and more civilized, we built industries and businesses that provided jobs. Men and women got out of bed and toted themselves to warehouses and coffee shops and Woolworths and garages. They worked with their hands and brains and got paid for the work done. They used that money to buy the things they needed. They gave some of it to widows and orphans. And almost no one sat around waiting on free money.
The recent experiment with free money has changed us. At least half the people living here have begun to think that money is all they need. And, as long as it’s free, they don’t need a job. They don’t need a sense of pride. They don’t need to be responsible for their own lives. And they especially don’t need to contribute to the care of widows and orphans. They are content to let the guys who are printing all the free money do that for them.
Somewhere along the way we ran amuck.
So, it is with deepest regrets, I must ask that you find someone else to help you with your dream. I fear that the ungodly and unbelievers in your country are sometimes not all that different from the saints and the confirmed fundamentalists in mine when it comes to money. Our ideas about money, especially the money we don’t have, are often honorable in theory. We talk about all the good we’d do if we had 3.5 million dollars, but once in our hands our generosity gets complicated.
My suggestion is simple. Feed your neighbors. If you buy meals for all the hungry children in Ivory Coast, your dream will come true. Since there are about 9 million living in poverty in your own back yard, you would have no problem running out of money by lunch today. Problem solved.
I wish I could do more, but I’m out of time. I’m on my way to the bank with my last stimulus check.