I distinctly remember the day I gave my grandma the nickname “Ol’ Money Bags.” I was probably 6 or 7 years old, and I was spending the day with Grandma Mayhew, my favorite person in the world. We had just walked home from the bank where Grandma had cashed a check. I followed her into the bedroom where she pulled a silver box from under her bed. She unlocked the box with a tiny key, and when she opened it, I saw a huge treasure! Inside her safe deposit box were several twenty-dollar bills as well as a few one-hundred dollar bills. I couldn’t believe it! Grandma was rich! I looked up at her with a sly smile and said, “Grandma, you’re an ol’ money bags!”
I guessed that she hadn’t told anyone else in the family about this secret box of money. No one would guess she had so much money, since she lived in an old sagging house, didn’t own a car, and never bought anything for herself but the bare necessities. Grandma laughed when I told her she was an ol’ money bags, and she smiled at me as though she liked the nickname. I felt that she had just let me in on her secret. I was willing to pretend I didn’t know about the treasure when we were with the rest of the family.
Periodically, after that day, as I would see Ol’ Money Bags giving money to people, I would smile to myself, remembering our little secret. She often slipped bills into the hands of family members who were having financial difficulties, she always gave to the offering at church, and she never heard of someone’s need without helping a little. She was so generous. But, I thought, anyone with that much money would be, wouldn’t they?
When I was in upper-elementary school, my dad’s home-painting business collapsed. Rather than trying to shelter me from their financial difficulties, Mom and Dad took the opportunity to teach me just how much money it takes to buy groceries, pay for doctor visits, and pay for heat and electricity. They wanted me to understand why I couldn’t have the shoes, clothes, and toys that I wanted so much. I learned to conserve money, and I began to realize that Grandma wasn’t such a “money bags” after all. I wondered how Grandma took care of all her needs with just a few hundred dollars stashed away. Instead of feeling smug every time she gave money away, I began to feel humbled by her generosity.
“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”
When I became the first person in our family to attend a university, Grandma was extremely proud of me. She was especially happy that I had chosen a Christian college. Knowing I was paying for college myself, she sent me off with some cash from her box. For the next six years, while I was in school, she faithfully sent a significant amount of money every month to help with my school bill. Often I would start to refuse the money, reminding her of her own expenses. She would always say, “You can’t out-give God. He always takes care of my needs.” In the end, I always accepted the cash, knowing that she was right, and that I would rob her of a blessing if I didn’t accept it.
Grandma reminds me of a special woman mentioned in the Bible. The widow of Zarephath, mentioned in 1 Kings 17:8-16, knew that “you can’t out-give God.” When Elijah asked her to use the last bit of her flour and oil to make him a bread cake, she gave willingly. Miraculously, the widow’s flour and oil never ran out during the drought that seized the land. God supplied that generous woman’s needs and gave her back more than she had given.
I’ve seen the Lord give back to my Grandma and take care of her needs in the same miraculous ways. There was a time when she found some money in a pocket right after she had given a sacrificial gift to a missionary. On numerous occasions, she has received gifts of groceries and money from a Christian couple who loves her. And once, a kind Christian man from Grandma’s church renovated her bathroom, not only donating all the labor, but all the supplies and new fixtures too.
I don’t call Grandma “Ol’ Money Bags” anymore. I’ve gained too much respect for her to call her that. When I talk about her to other people, I usually refer to her as some-thing like “My dear, sweet Grandma.” Grandma’s example has influenced me greatly. I don’t claim to be as generous as she is, but I have found great joy in giving sacrificial gifts to those in need. And, on several occasions, I have received unexpected money after giving a monetary gift.
I hope to be as rich as Grandma someday. She truly has more wealth than most people I know, although not in the way I originally thought. Her riches are in heaven.
Written by Addy Forrest. This article was published in the Summer 2006 edition of The Beautiful Spirit magazine. Addy and her husband Dan live in Greenville, SC with their three children.