Armand Hammer made millions; then he gave them away. The entrepreneur and petroleum magnate gave generously to Columbia University, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and to disaster relief around the world. As generous as he was, he may have never pulled a dollar from his wallet were it not for the lasting impression of his father.
Hammer’s father was a physician who put the patient ahead of the payment. In his autobiography, Hammer writes:
I have seen, in his office, drawers full of unpaid bills for which he refused to demand payment because he knew the difficult circumstances of the patients. And I heard innumerable stories from patients about his leaving money behind to pay for the prescriptions he had written when he visited people who were too poor to eat, let alone pay the doctor. It must have been the example of my father which first inspired me.
Those words have reverberated in my heart for years. They are a billboard reminder that I set an example for our children and grandchildren. The Apostle Paul advances this thought even further.
Paul knew that his life was a constant example of the life in Christ. He drives home this point to the churches in Corinth and Thessaloniki:
- "Therefore I urge you to imitate me." 1 Corinthians 4:15-16 NIV
- "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV
- "For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you." 2 Thessalonians 3:7 ESV
- "It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate." 2 Thessalonians 3:9 ESV
Paul was a spiritual father who understood the power of precedent:
Those are strong words. Am I so bold? Furthermore, is my example of service, love, godliness, giving, discipline, prayer, or hard work even worthy of imitation?
Peter tells the church, "Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation." 1 Peter 2:12 ESV
What is he saying but, "Your example matters!"
What is the secret to being a better example? It is following a better Example. Paul writes:
The power of your example comes from the power of God living in you. Paul got that. His confidence to live as an example before others was his confidence in Christ who lived in him. Paul was so intent on trekking with Jesus that he could simply invite others to follow him on that path.
Do you want to be an example worth imitating? Set your sights on Christ. Abide in him. Walk with him. Rely on him in every step you take today.
"I have seen in his office . . ." from Armand Hammer and Neil Lyndon, Hammer, Perigee Books, 1988, page 55.