A little more than two decades ago, the book-turned-into-a-movie Pay It Forward started a movement. The story is about a boy who, for a project, chose three unexpecting and undeserving people to do an act of kindness. They were then to do the same thing. He saw that as a way to change the world. After the movie, one could scarcely go through a day without seeing in the news or on social media an account of someone answering the call to pay-it-forward. The fervor has died down so only those stories that are unique and especially emotion-rousing get shared these days.
Christmas: the great reminder
We are now entering a season to remember when God launched his own pay-it-forward campaign. For the world, it is the ultimate pay-it-forward. We often think of Christmas as the beginning of that campaign. However, we are told in Scripture that the Lord had us in His heart and thoughts before the foundation of the world. We see it for the first time in the Genesis account of Adam and Eve being sent from the garden.
The Garden of Eden provided Adam and Eve the most enviable life. They tended the garden, enjoyed all of God’s creation, walked and talked with God in the evenings, and had only one requirement. God hadn’t given them a list of dos and don’ts. He had one tree planted in the garden that they were told not to eat from. No ten commandments. No impossible-to-keep regulations. Breaking the one rule held the judgment of death. I hope this concept is not lost. Adam did no gross sin as we think of sin. We tend to have a ruler like Mary Poppins to judge character or actions. All Adam and Eve had to do was enjoy every produce in the garden but from that one tree.
I hope also it’s understood that eating the fruit wasn’t the sin. Rebelling against God and doing what was right in their own eyes—setting themselves up as gods—was what brought the judgment upon them and all of mankind that followed.
With God’s pronouncement of judgment, He also gave a promise. He informed Adam and Eve that a descendant of theirs would pay the debt of sin for all mankind.
At some point in time, we heard and believed the nativity story as told us in the Bible. Joseph reacted at first, like probably most of us would have. He had serious doubts about this virgin birth story, but an angel appeared to him in a dream. The words of the angel brought Joseph great comfort and relief. He believed the child Mary carried was of God. He would be named Jesus and would in God’s time save people from sin. Savior. Immanuel. God with us.
Luke records an account of shepherds being visited by angels. They declared to the shepherds that a Savior was born in the city of David, Christ (the anointed one) the Lord. (Luke 2:11)
About thirty years later, Jesus stood in a synagogue and read from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” And He closed the ]book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” (Luke 4:18-21, NKJV). Jesus declared here that God’s paying it forward had begun.
When Jesus met with Nicodemus, He stated that God (his Father) loved the world so much that He gave (chose to sacrifice) his own Son in order to pay-it-forward for an eternal redemption. Insert link
Following these two announcements, Jesus went about the area teaching about the kingdom of heaven and began paying it forward. He met needs. He reminded people that the Lord knows what we need. The Father loves and takes care of sparrows, knowing when one falls, but we are worth more to Him. He will provide what we need. Jesus turned water to wine to meet a need. He fed five thousand with five loaves and two fish. He directed Peter to catch a fish and look in its mouth when they did not have the money to pay taxes. Kingdom resources made available.
In his ministry, Jesus gave sight to the blind, healed leprosy, cast out demons, made the lame to walk, gave voice to the speechless, and brought the dead back to life again. Kingdom authority displayed.
Fulfillment of God’s work happened on Calvary. There Jesus accomplished (finished) the ultimate pay-it-forward. Jesus’ sacrifice was necessary to fulfill God’s promise to Adam.
The next generation
As you read through the New Testament, be on the alert for pay-it-forward moments described for us and learn from them. A short list to help you as you read:
- Love one another, 1 John 3:23
- Pray for one another, James 5:16
- Forgive one another, Ephesians 4:32
- Ask one another for forgiveness, Matthew 5:23-24
- Bear one another’s burdens, Galations 6:2
- Serve one another, Galatians 5:13, John 13:1-17
- Watch out for one another, Galatians 6:1
- Comfort one another, 2 Corinthians 1:4-5
- Help one another (generously), Hebrews 13:16, Galatians 5:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-16
- Submit to one another, Ephesians 5:21, and
- Exhort, stir-up one another. Hebrews 3:13
In all these things, walk in them by faith. Be an example. Let Jesus guide you and walk them out through you. In so doing, Jesus continues to pay it forward.