2 NBA Stars. 2 Different Stories.

I found it amusing that a just this week Warren mentioned Francis Chan’s new book on the Holy Spirit since I just finished reading the Kindle edition of his first book entitled Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God. I would put Crazy Love in the “get serious about your faith” genre and it’s always good to read one of those every once in a while.

Toward the end of the book, Chan briefly tells the stories of several people (some contemporary and some not) who lived lives sold out to Christ. As I read that those this morning I thought of a guy who died recently whose story could have made the list. His name is Manute Bol and his claim to fame was that he was 7 feet 7 inches tall. While he wasn’t very athletic, the Washington Bullets thought that his height made him worthy of a second round draft pick in the 1985 NBA draft. He played 9 seasons with 4 different teams and averaged only averaged 2.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 0.3 assists and 3.3 blocks per game while only playing an average of 18.7 minutes per game.

In spite of his disappointing performance on the court Bol made approximately $6 million. This is where the story gets interesting because although he made a nice chunk of change, he died broke. Maybe that shouldn’t surprise us since nearly 60% of NBA players and 80% of NFL players are broke just five years after being out of the league. But Manute Bol was broke for a different reason. He gave all his money away to the help people in his native Sudan.

Manute Bol grew up as a Christian in the war torn country of Sudan and never forgot the Christians that were suffering at the hands of the government. As he put it to Sports Illustrated in 2004: “God guided me to America and gave me a good job. But he also gave me a heart so I would look back.” So while many athletes go broke buying homes and jets, Bol went broke by building hospitals.

But he didn’t stop there. After his NBA money was gone, Bol used his tremendous height to raise more money at the expense of his reputation. He boxed the Refrigerator, was a celebrity jockey, and laced up skates with a Canadian minor league hockey team. Throughout all this he was mocked and laughed at but that was fine with him as long as he could raise money to send it back to help the hurting in Sudan.

Bol contracted Stevens-Johnson syndrome which is a painful skin disease which eventually led to his death of acute kidney failure. He was 47.

There’s plenty to think about here. For example, Jon Shields wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal wondering why Bol’s Christian faith was never credited as the reason for his generosity. But for me his story joins a list of others that inspire me to live generously.

Sometimes I think that if God entrusted me with riches that I would be quick to give them away. Maybe. But Manute Bol didn’t just dream about it or talk about it. He actually did it. And of course I’m reminded that God has blessed me with plenty of riches right now. How am I doing in living generously with what he’s given me?

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