Worth Every Penny

Worth Every Penny

It probably goes without saying that reading is a healthy exercise that we should all do often. And the best part of this “exercise” (for me, at least) it requires little physical activity.

Something I recommend believers do is read biographies and memoirs of people from church history and even believers from the modern era.

I recently started reading the memoirs of Dr. Calvin Miller who was a pastor, author, and professor who passed away in 2012. I was first introduced to Dr. Miller when as a first year pastor, I picked up his book Letters to a Young Pastor (which I try to read every year).

As I was reading his memoir, Life is Mostly Edges, I came across a part that I thought was awesome and I wanted to share. So I am going to summarize a little background and then directly quote page 119 of his book. I hope it touches you the way it touched me…

At this point in the book we find young Calvin attending Oklahoma Baptist University in the 50’s. During the summer he would drive combines and wheat trucks in order to pay for his tuition.

But in the summer of 1955 as it was time to pay tuition for the coming year, he still found himself $250 dollars short:

“It was with a great uneasiness that I approached the bursar’s office that year two hundred and fifty dollars short. I apologized to him as he looked up my tuition page in his great university ledger.

‘Now, I remember you,’ he said. ‘You received two hundred and fifty dollars as a special gift from someone. With this money you brought in, your tuition is paid for the year.’

Tears came to my eyes.

‘Who gave the money?’ I asked, thinking it could only be Brother Daley (Calvin’s former pastor).

“Uh, uh, uh,’ he said, ‘can’t tell you. The donor wishes to remain anonymous. It could be anybody.’

I had always disliked anonymous gifts. They force you to be nice to everyone, because you just never know…

For two decades I pondered over the anonymous offering, without which I might never have finished college and my entire future would have been altered. Twenty years later at my mother’s funeral, while I stood at her graveside grieving my loss, an old man I barely knew approached me.

Claude Simons is his name if ever you should want to celebrate his presence in heaven. The old man had always been an old man. He lived alone and he had never been anything more than a floor-sweep at the Pillsbury Mill. Still, had every soul been as noble as he, the gates of Eden would never have clanged shut.

He walked up to me even as I wept, put his arms around my heaving shoulders, and patted me on the chest with his frail old hand. ‘Dr. Miller,’ he said softly, but with a twinkle in his eye, ‘did you ever wonder where that two hundred and fifty dollars came from on your second year at OBU?’

‘I’ve wondered all my life,’ I told him.

‘I gave it,’ he said. ‘And by the way, you were worth every penny of it…and then some.’

In such moments I forgive the church for sometimes being so unlike its Founder, and remember that here and there Jesus is right: the meek still inherit the earth.”[1]


This story struck me because this man helped out someone who he barely knew and had nothing to gain from helping him.

So I had to ask myself, and you, “How can you and I do something similar?” Hey, it may not mean monetary help to a bible college student. It may not be monetary at all.

We all remember the parable of the Good Samaritan. And we should remember as we read and ponder that parable, not only asking, “Who is my neighbor?” but also, “who can I be neighborly to?”

Maybe then we can really be the hands and feet of Jesus. Maybe then we could reflect who Jesus really was. Maybe then a world full of people who think (wrongly) that Christianity is just about being a moralist, self-righteous legalist who look down their long noses at people who sin differently than they do.

Because Jesus loved the little and the least. Jesus loved the marginalized and oppressed. And Jesus desired for the Father to get all the glory. As should we.

So who can you and I be neighborly to?

It may make all the difference in someone’s life. It will be worth every penny. And God will get the glory for it.


[1] Miller, Calvin, Life is Mostly Edges: A Memoir (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2008), 118-119.