How Not To Pay It Forward

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you before, but it’s pretty cool when the person ahead of you in a drive through line pays for your meal.  I have done it for others but never have had someone do it for me, that is until today.

I ordered food, got to the window to pay and the nice lady said, “Hey the person in front of you paid for your meal.”  How awesome I thought, but then she followed with this, “The person also said that you should pay for the person behind you.”

I only had seven bucks on me at the time so I had already been carefully about what I ordered at this particular, kind of pricey, fast food restaurant.  The woman at the window informed me that the persons meal behind me was close to what I was going to pay, so I paid for their meal as to not look like a jerk.

That’s not paying it forward.  Paying it forward involves doing something nice for someone expecting nothing in return so that your act may inspire the person to do something likewise.  The person in front of me, while their intentions may have been good, wasn’t being a blessing they were just starting a weird game of everyone else pay for someone else’s meal.  Where’s the blessing in that?

When we give and serve others we are called to be selfless.   To give of our time, money, and stuff without expecting something in return.  That’s the greatest and most inspiring way to “pay it forward.” In the below passage from Luke 6 Jesus talks about serving even our enemies without expecting anything in return.

“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. -Luke‬ ‭6‬:‭35-36

The person who paid for my meal “paid it forward” expecting me to do something for someone else.  This is quite the opposite of paying it forward. There is no blessing in expecting something in return.

When we do something for others we should expect nothing in return.  We give because what we have is first and foremost a gift from God.  We are giving back and sharing what God has given us.

So be a blessing to someone today, just do it without the expectation of anything in return.  That’s when your gift will inspire others to do likewise.

Do you have some good examples of how to “pay it forward” and bless other people selflessly?


5 thoughts on “How Not To Pay It Forward

  1. I understand that being on a budget put you in an awkward position when someone asked that you pay it forward. This may have been the one time that you splurge and go out and treat yourself. The person in the car in front of you said that you should pay for the person behind you. There is nothing that says that you have to. If you are not in a position to pay it forward, then don’t pay it forward. Even if the person behind you had a bill of $20 you still could have told the lady, “Here is what I was going to spend on my meal, please apply it to the bill of the person behind me and tell them to have a great day.” Jesus Christ paid it forward in the most spectacular way possible. As Christ followers, Jesus has told us to spread His good news and share the Gospel of Christ. What is the difference between the person in front of you being gracious and asking you to pass it on, and Jesus Christ dying for your sins and asking you to share His message? Does the gift of salvation come without expectation? Jesus died selflessly so that we may live and He commands nothing in return. The person in front of you may very well have had the expectation that you would pass along their gift. Is that so wrong? What did they have to gain? They have no knowledge of whether or not you actually passed the gift on to the person behind you. Unfortunately life isn’t always on our terms. I think as Christians, we are too quick to judge the actions of others. In the end what are you so upset about? That someone paid for your meal and asked you to pay for someone else? Could you not have taken your $7 and bought some canned goods to take to the food bank for someone who does not have a meal? Don’t worry, I’m just as guilty and selfish as you. We all are, we are human. Before jumping up on a soap box and telling someone that they didn’t give a gift properly, maybe stop and think about what you can do. Maybe stop for a second and think about how ungrateful you were in receiving a gift that some stranger gave to you because it wasn’t on your terms. You could have simply told the lady you are on a tight budget, but instead you were afraid you would look like a jerk. What if the person in front of you doesn’t know Jesus? What if they read your blog post? Would they think being a Christ follower is a good thing? Just some food for thought……don’t worry I won’t ask you to pass it along.

    1. Hey Bob, thanks for your comment and thanks for reading the post.

      I apologize for coming across ungrateful as I realize that her intent was good – like I said above, but if you give a gift and tell me to pay for the person behind me how is that being given a gift? What was I to be thankful for if your asking me to pay for someone else? It was not a suggestion according to the lady at the window, she expected me to.

      Also, I do not agree with you that God asks us for anything in return. We give our lives to God because of what Jesus sacrificed for us. The gift was given regardless of my response. It’s in our relationship with him that everything else flows out of. Because I love him I share the gospel. Because I love Him I love and serve others. Because I love Jesus I try my best to give and expect nothing in return.
      “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

  2. So the problem lies in expectation. The lady expected you to pass on her gift and pay for the person, just as Christ expects you to share the gospel as a Christ follower. In both instances, the gift was not contingent on the expectation. You could have very easily told the cashier, that you would rather pay for yourself and to apply whatever was paid for you to the person behind you. Just as you could deny Christ’s gift and be on your merry way. You still chose to accept the gift from the lady in front of you and turned her expectation into a condition.

    1. Bob, thanks again for your comment. I think our disagreement lies within what the person expected from me after giving her gift. It was presented to me in a way that the person expected me to pay for the next person, like it wasn’t an option. Because the person had done something nice they expected me to do the same right then and there. And we can agree to disagree, but if a gift has an expectation attached to it then it is not a gift.

      The definition of a gift – “something given voluntarily without payment expected in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance.”

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