Millard (1935-2009) and Linda (1941- ) Fuller
(…continued) This is not an uncommon situation. It happens all the time. A while back an old friend was telling me about the stresses he was having at work. “Sure,” he said, “I’m making more money that I ever thought I would, but it’s killing me.” He said he’s been thinking back to the days when his weekly paycheck was $191.21, and he said he was happier then. This is common problem, but Millard and Linda Fuller came up with an uncommon solution.
They met to see if they could repair their broken marriage, and they, like my friend, looked back to the good old days when they were struggling. Millard said to Linda, “We were doing all right before we got rich, so let’s just get rid of all our money and all our possessions and see what happens.”
Preceding that radical notion had been some intense soul searching and the realization that their biggest loss was their loss of faith. Therefore, they had already decided to recommit their lives to God. And they did go on to get rid of all their money and everything they owned– every dollar and every possession. They were able to do that because they went to live at Koinonia Farms in Americus, Georgia, a Christian community where all things were owned in common and no one possessed anything of their own. They walked in there with the clothes on their back, and started over with no money and no possessions and no income, other than the room and board they received for their participation in the work of the farm. After a couple years at Koinonia, they went to serve as missionaries in Africa, where they again received an income, though far less than they were used to. It was in Africa that they began building houses and got the idea for Habitat for Humanity.
I am not saying that is what everybody is commanded to do, and Fuller wouldn’t say that either, and neither would Jesus. Jesus told one man to sell everything he had and give it to the poor; but he did not tell that to anyone else, even though he knew many other wealthy people. Jesus was always telling everyone to be generous and serve others, but only once did he tell a man to sell everything and give it all away. But the Fullers believed that this was what God wanted them to do at that time, and so that is what they did. That was the path they took, and it saved their marriage, and provided the opportunity to begin what would become a great international work for the Lord, Habitat for Humanity. In the words of the book of Hebrews, BY FAITH, the Fullers gave away everything and started over, trusting in God’s care and guidance.
In telling his life story, Millard Fuller liked to refer to Matthew 6:33 where Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.” Fuller said that when he was younger, he was seeking all the other things first, and it did not make him happy, even when he had gotten it all. Only when he put God first did he become happy, and his marriage was restored, and his stress was reduced, and his health improved, and his faith was renewed.
Fuller wrote ten books, and in all of those books he talks a great deal about his favorite theme– generosity. He said his whole life turned around when he changed his mindset away from acquiring more and more, to giving more and more. He said God commands us to be generous and blesses us when we are generous. And “Isn’t that the very essence of the love of God?,” Fuller asks, “God who gave us His only Son, sending him to die for the forgiveness of our sins.” God is always giving to us. Everything we have is from God. Should we not be generous with what we have been given? Fuller tells many stories of the good feeling he received from being generous.
Not long after the Fullers decided to give everything away, Millard was on a plane sitting next to a young lady with whom he had an interesting conversation. He found out that she was the book-keeper for a small business. But, she said, she might not be there for very long, because they had a couple setbacks, and things weren’t going very well, and the company would probably have to close. She was very sad about this, because the owner was a good man and it was a good business, but due to some things beyond his control, he just could not get out of the hole he was in. Fuller asked a few more questions about the owner and the business, and wondered if they could make a go of it if they got past this crisis.
“Yes,” she said, “I think we would be fine.” Then Fuller asked how much money it would take to keep her boss in business. She told him that with about $25,000 they would be okay. Fuller then told the woman that he would give her boss the $25,000.
“Give me his address,” he said, “and I will send him a check. I am in the process of giving all my money away, and this seems like a good place to give some of it.”
“What? You don’t even know my boss!,” she said with disbelief.
“Well, God does,” Fuller said, “and you do, and you say he is a good man and needs some help, and I think God wants me to help him.”
Well, he got the address, sent the money, the business was saved, and went on to grow and become very successful. In time, they all become good friends, and the rescued businessman returned the generosity many times over by becoming an ongoing contributor to Habitat for Humanity. Generosity is a powerful thing, Fuller says, and God blesses the generous giver in all kinds of ways, the greatest of which is by bringing our hearts closer to His.
Hebrews 11 has been called Faith’s Hall of Fame. In the first two verses of the next chapter we read that we should be encouraged by these (and other) examples as we live our lives:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders us, and the sin that so easily entangle us, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hear Millard Fuller talk about generosity at:
Luke 18:22-24 — When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
James 1:17 — Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Proverbs 11:25 — A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
Lord Jesus, who for our sakes became poor, so that by thy poverty we might become rich; grant to thy people so to give of their substance as to acknowledge that they belong wholly to thee. Amen.
–Church of South India