What Truett Cathy Taught Me
- Jim Denison Denison Forum on Truth and Culture
- 2014 9 Sep
I remember the first time I drove up to a Chick-fil-A on a Sunday. The lines were usually very long, so I was surprised that no one was in front of me. I stopped where customers give their order, but no one answered. Then I saw the sign stating that the restaurant is closed on Sundays. I confess that my first reaction was frustration, followed by surprise that the company would close on such an important day for restaurant sales.
Then it dawned on me: Truett Cathy was putting his faith to work. He and I would never meet, but his sacrificial decision to value worship ahead of profits has impressed me ever since. He witnessed to the Lord's priority in his life every Sunday, to every person who drove past his closed restaurants. He touched more people by that one decision than many pastors will reach in a lifetime.
Nearly 70 years ago, S. Truett Cathy was the owner of a small restaurant in the Atlanta area called the Dwarf Grill. He was talking one day with a poultry distributor, who wondered if there was a way to use leftover chicken from meals prepared for airplane passengers. Cathy dreamed up the concept of a chicken sandwich, and tried it on his customers. In 1967, he opened his first Chick-fil-A in an Atlanta shopping center. Today, his idea has grown to a $5 billion company with more than 1,800 locations and more U.S. sales than KFC.
Cathy died yesterday at the age of 93. It's tempting to describe him as a rags-to-riches American financial success story. But if that's all we remember, we'll miss the most important lesson he tried to teach us.
Here's what Truett Cathy's decision proves: The more difficult our obedience, the greater our reward. I came to this conviction recently when reading Revelation 14. Verse 7 commands us to "fear God and give him glory." Why?
In New Testament times worshipping the Roman emperor brought immediate temporal benefit, but eternal loss: such idolaters "will drink the wine of God's fury" (v. 10). By contrast, those who refused emperor worship often paid with their lives, but "blessed are the dead who die in the Lord," for "their deeds will follow them" (v. 13). The more our obedience costs us today, the more it is rewarded forever.
I don't know how much Truett Cathy's decision to close Chick-fil-A on Sundays cost his company's bottom line. But I do know that his sacrificial commitment to "fear God and give him glory" touched me and countless others. Oswald Chambers noted that "God rarely allows a soul to see how great a blessing he is." But when we care only about what God cares about, he uses our faithfulness to change the world.
What difficult decision is God asking you to make? It may be something you need to do or stop doing, someone you need to forgive or seek forgiveness from. If it were easy, you would have done it already. But know this: the harder the climb, the greater the height.
Remember Jim Elliott's famous axiom: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Truett Cathy proved that he was right. So can you.
Publication date: September 9, 2014
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