Mystery philanthropist hides $100 bills

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Mystery philanthropist hides $100 bills

July 14, 2016 - Ryan Denison, PhD

A pile of $100 dollar bills

For the last few years, citizens of Salem, Oregon have benefited from the anonymous blessings of a mystery philanthropist. He or she has made a habit of hiding $100 bills in stores, markets, fairs, and festivals for others to find. Capi Lynn of the Statesman Journal nicknamed the generous individual Benny in honor of Benjamin Franklin, the man who graces the cover of the bill, and reports that he or she has hidden more than $50,000 worth of $100 bills around the city since May of 2013—and that’s just the amount that’s been reported.

As Lynn describes, Benny folds the bills and places them “in everything from breakfast cereals to frozen entrees, and from mouse traps to feminine hygiene products.” For many, it’s taken weeks to find the bill hidden in an otherwise normal item. But no matter how long it takes the lucky recipient to discover the gift, it always seems to come at the right time. Lynn has heard countless stories of people who’ve been able to pay their rent or electricity bills, buy medicine for themselves or a family member, and a number of other blessings upon finding the $100. One homeless couple was even able to experience the joy of having a roof over their heads for a few nights thanks to Benny’s anonymous generosity.

For many, however, finding a Benny bill serves primarily as motivation to pay it forward. More than half of those who’ve made their stories public donated the bill to their favorite non-profit, gave it to someone in need, or kept it as a reminder and donated their own money instead. As a result, Benny has touched more lives with his generosity than he’s likely to ever know because his actions have inspired others to be more generous in their own lives as well.

Our witness is supposed to have a similar effect on the world around us. Throughout the Book of Acts, we find stories of the early believers whose lives so exuded the presence of Christ that others couldn’t help but notice. Many of those who did gave their lives to Christ as a result. In Antioch, for example, their witness was so strong that the people in the city—the pagans and Jews rather than the believers themselves—started calling them little-Christs, or Christians (Acts 11:26).

Could the same happen for us today? If we stopped calling ourselves Christians, would our culture do it for us? If our words and actions were the only evidence people had that we followed Christ, would it be enough? There’s only one answer to those questions that the Lord finds acceptable; only one answer that means we’re fulfilling our God-given calling to the lost around us.

While few of us could ever make a habit of stuffing $100 bills in random cereal boxes, each of us has something of far greater value to give (Acts 3:1–10). Whether it’s a kind word, sacrificial act, or any number of things that show God’s love to those around us, we earn the privilege of sharing his message of salvation through such actions. From the beginning, God has blessed us so that we might be a blessing to others and that purpose should continue to motivate our decisions today (Genesis 12:2). Will it?

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV®️ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®️), copyright ©️ 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated in whole or in part into any other language.

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