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Hey, Oprah, What Gives?

By Belinda Elliott Daily Life Producer - I don’t typically agree with Oprah Winfrey. Her show is often somewhat entertaining, but her feel-good “spiritual” answers to life’s questions are usually way off the mark in my opinion.

But this time, she had a good idea.

Her new reality show, The Big Give, premiered last weekend. Similar to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Amy Grant's (short lived) Three Wishes, the show features contestants seeking out individuals and blessing them in some way.

Oprah selected ten contestants from thousands of hopeful participants to take on her philanthropic challenge. The contestants will travel around the country completing tasks designed to help individuals and their communities.

In the show’s first episode, contestants were all given $2,500, and they were to use that money to make a difference in someone’s life. Participants had only a few days to meet the person they would be helping, discover their needs, and devise a plan to either raise money for them or secure other resources that would help the person.

Last week’s episode included life-changing aid for five people: a recently widowed mother of young twin daughters struggling to keep her home after her husband was killed in an armed robbery; a homeless mother that lacked basic needs for her family; a soldier who was honorably discharged from service after being wounded in Iraq; the mother of a Down Syndrome son that wanted a larger facility to care for adults with disabilities; and a graduate student that faced more than $200,000 in debt due to student loans.

The contestants provided a wide array of resources including thousands of donated funds, educational scholarships for the children, mortgage payments, home appliances, musical instruments, a new Ford Taurus, and a two-bedroom home with rent for the first six months already paid.

Once their tasks were complete, three celebrity judges evaluated the contestants’ efforts to see who “gave big.” It is the job of these judges – chef Jamie Oliver (Food Network), Malaak Compton-Rock (wife of comedian Chris Rock), and NFL star Tony Gonzalez – to decide which contestant is eliminated each week.

The end result of these philanthropist activities is a heart-warming show that demonstrates how one person can make a difference in another person’s life. What these contestants from all walks of life are learning (and what Christians already knew) is that it is better to give than to receive.

Some of the contestants are experiencing the rewards of giving for the first time. Others have dedicated their lives to helping people, and this is just one more opportunity for them to do that.

As the contestants pulled off their “big reveals” near the end of the show, they were thrilled with the responses they saw from the people they helped. Once their tasks were finished, all of the contestants agreed that helping others was one of the best experiences of their lives. They had not felt anything like it before.

So while I don’t usually agree with Oprah’s spiritual views, I tip my hat to her for this particular venture. Hopefully, this show can demonstrate to a self-absorbed culture that serving others brings its own rewards.

However, it is important for us to remember that we don’t have to have the riches of Oprah to make a difference in people’s lives. A kind word, a note of encouragement, an offer to run errands or do yard work, these small acts of kindness can make a huge difference in someone’s life as well.

And, as Christians, we have an even deeper well to draw from when serving others. We have the hope and peace that the world around us is searching for.

As we serve others, are we telling them about Christ’s sacrifice for them and God’s plan for their lives?

If we are taking our role as Christ’s servants on earth seriously, then meeting the needs of others will be a way of life for us rather than a periodic occasion to feel good about ourselves.

And if we are diligent to share God’s love and His Word as we serve, perhaps the world won’t have to turn to Oprah for their answers to life’s questions.

The Big Give airs Sunday nights on ABC at 9:00 p.m. (ET).


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