Several years ago Woody Hayes, who is a college football hall of famer and a former head coach at Ohio State University, was delivering a commencement speech during a graduation ceremony at OSU. While he was speaking to the graduates, he challenged them with these words: “You can never pay back what this school has done for you. Even the money you paid didn’t completely pay for the quality of education you received at Ohio State University. You can’t pay it back. It’s an investment that will last you for the rest of your life. However, even though you can’t pay it back, you can pay it forward.”
That very concept inspired the 2000 movie, Pay It Forward. The idea was for the graduates to pass along to somebody else in their lives the blessing that they had each received from the school. Alumni Associations in colleges regularly call upon the alumni to reinvest in others, because of the education that they themselves have received. It is a call to sharing.
Throughout the scriptures, God’s people have been called to be giving people. In the Pentateuch, this is how Moses instructed Israel to give: “You shall give to him [a poor brother] freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.” (Deuteronomy 15:10) When Jesus sent out His twelve apostles He instructed them to “Give as freely as you have received!” (Matthew 10:8b NLT) Later in the Gospels, our Lord warned His disciples (and us to today) to be prepared for His return. He warned that “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand more.” (Luke 12:48b)
The truth is, we can never repay God for all that He has done for us. But we can use our spiritual and monetary blessings to bless others. Because we are His people, we are called to be giving people. And in the words of the late Woody Hayes, “Even though you can’t pay it back, you can pay it forward.”