Sermon Illustrations

Kindness Trumps Riches

Like many American Christians, Keith Taylor has benefited from the generosity of other people in different times and different ways. For example, while Keith was attending graduate school in Tennessee, his car broke down, and the subsequent repair bill caused him to be short on his rent that month. Fortunately for Keith, his boss at his part-time job paid the rent bill in full—a gift, not a loan.

One evening in 2002, Keith was reflecting on the kindness of his boss, and on the other acts of generosity that had contributed to the happiness and stability of his life. And like many American Christians, Keith decided that he would one day dedicate his life to helping others. "When I’m really rich, I’m going to start an organization to help the working poor."

But then Keith was seized by a remarkable thought. "It occurred to me all of a sudden," he says, "that no one who had ever helped me had ever been wealthy. They had just been nice. They’d just had compassion." And that’s when Keith Taylor became unlike many American Christians, because that’s when he began to act.

Keith decided he would try to help one person each month get through some kind of financial crisis, and he set aside $350 to get started. He also set up a very basic website that invited requests for assistance. But when that site was featured on a popular blog, Keith’s plans went out the window. He received 1,100 emails the next day—-most were from people requesting assistance, but a surprising number were from people who wanted to help.

A short time later, Keith incorporated a nonprofit organization called Modest Needs. The organization’s first official grant saved a woman’s life—-she received money for a mammogram that discovered a tumor, and it has been gaining steam ever since. Now fronted by a popular website,, Taylor’s organization gave away almost $2.5 million in grants in 2009.

"Every day is another miracle," Taylor says. "It’s beyond my imagination."

One more exciting thing about Modest Needs is that almost 70 percent of individuals who receive money from grants end up donating money back to the organization sometime later. In other words, kindness produces more kindness and generosity produces more generosity—which sounds like a great way to love your neighbor.

(Sam O’Neal, Geneva, Illinois; source: Jim Kavanagh, "The Unexpected Power of $10 to $20," (12-22-09). From a sermon by Terry Blankenship, "It’s Something I Really Don’t Want to Talk About," 1/26/2010)

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