Paying It Forward

“Paying It Forward”

Starbucks customers choosing to "pay it forward" (Photo: Weston Phippen; Times)

Starbucks customers choosing to “pay it forward” (Photo: Weston Phippen; Times)

How is this for a streak of kindness? According to a report in the Tampa Bay Times, “The acts of kindness [in St. Petersburg, Florida] began at 7 A.M. Wednesday with a woman, her iced coffee and a stranger’s caramel macchiato. The woman paid for her own drink, then asked to pay for the drink of the person behind her in the drive-through. That person returned the favor and paid for the person behind …”[i]

From 7am to 6pm 378 people “paid it forward”!

The Starbucks baristas started to keep a tally of the paying it forward customers. By 1:30 P.M., the chain had reached 260 customers. By early evening, the tally hit 378. “Then, at 6 P.M., customer No. 379—a woman in a white Jeep Commander—pulled into the drive-through and ordered a regular coffee.” Then a barista told the woman about the pay it forward chain, she declined, saying she just wanted to pay for her $2.25 drink and not someone else’s. Apparently, she didn’t understand the concept, and the chain was broken.

As far as we know, none of these customers were in need of having someone pay for their coffee; it was only a simple gesture of kindness – repeated 378 times. Certainly, the 340th customer did not go without coffee when the lady in the Jeep decided not to join the chain. Nothing of genuine significance was at stake. The fun of being a part of a caring community that expressed kindness to strangers was the only real motivation.

When your turn came, what would you do?

What would you do? I suspect that most of us would have gladly joined in to spread the good will.

I see this “pay it forward” spirit at Ridgeland Baptist Church. From what I know of our history, it has been going on for many years.

Many of our brothers and sisters who are now worshipping in the presence of God “paid it forward” by investing their lives in our Master’s Mission of making disciples (Mt. 28:18-20). You know it is true. It has been done since the first followers of Christ decided that they could not help, but “pay it forward” by telling the world about the Living Lord – Jesus Christ.

We have a rich lineage that actually connects us to those Christ-followers in the Upper Room!

Since then there has been a “chain” of people who have been so grateful for what God has done for them that they wanted to do whatever they could to “pay it forward” to others. Just try to think back to those who influenced you to be a fully devoted follower of Christ. Now, who influenced them? Oh we have a rich lineage that actually connects us to those Christ-followers in the Upper Room!

Why wouldn’t anyone want to be a part of this?

  • Perhaps the woman at Starbucks who broke the chain felt too much pride to let someone pay for her coffee.
  • Maybe she didn’t want to get involved.
  • It is possible that she was simply selfish.
  • And it is conceivable that she was afraid of what it might cost her.

The message of the Gospel has come to you. Now what will YOU do?

  • Will you humbly receive God’s gift?
  • Will you step outside of your comfort zone and get involved?
  • Will you think of God’s glory and the good of others more than yourself?
  • Will you risk whatever it may cost you in money, time, relationships, and etc. to make sure that those who come behind you receive His gift?
  • Will you “pay it forward”?

Simple Ways to Pay It Forward:

  1. Be prepared – Before we can give, we must have something to give.  We must invest personal time knowing, worshipping, praying, loving, and seeking the Lord Jesus. Our attitude, willingness to sacrifice, faithfulness, and love must be genuinely like Jesus or we have nothing to give.
  2. Be purposeful – Those at Starbucks intended to pay for the customer behind them. We must intentionally choose to give God’s Best to those under our influence.
  3. Be personal – Treating people like a project will not work. Ultimately, everyone wants to know if others are genuine. They want to know if we really care about him or her. Only showing interest during church activities won’t cut it. The only way they will know us is to spend time with us. It takes time to build relationships and they need more than one or two hours in a group setting at church. We need to “do life” with them.
  4. Be persistent – We must be persistent to see others choose to follow Christ and we must be persistent to stay connected to them during various seasons of life until they are “paying it forward” as well.

We who are Christ-followers have received so much. Now, it is OUR TURN!

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