“I think we’ve given enough,” I announce to Brad early Sunday morning as I hold my church’s stewardship campaign brochure open in my hand. I rattle off the charities we’ve supported and the donations we’ve made to the church in the last year. It feels significant, impressive even. I give myself a smug little pat on the back, satisfied with my generosity. I feel Jesus-y, and it feels good.
…until I read this week’s lesson about the widow who drops two small coins – everything she has – into the offering plate.
“I tell you the truth,” says Jesus, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.” (Luke 21:3-4).
We don’t particularly like this story, do we? I know I don’t, because every time I read it, I see myself in the rich giver. My giving smacks of self-righteousness. My giving allows me to pretend I am sacrificing, when in fact, I am simply skimming off the top.
Jesus sees the difference between the substantial offerings of the rich people versus the seemingly paltry offering made by the widow. The wealthy gave from their surplus – their donation, though outwardly generous, didn’t really impact their standard of living or their bottom line, nor did it seem to come from the heart. The widow, on the other hand, made a true sacrifice. Though her gift seemed small, those two coins were everything she had. Those two coins were the most generous gift she could possibly make, and she gave it all.
The rich skimmed the surface of their surplus, even though they had plenty. The widow dug deep and gave everything, even though she lacked.
I don’t think Jesus necessarily instructs us to give every penny and our last dollar to the church. Rather, I think he asks us to look at our motives for and methods of giving.
When we give, do we consider God first, and then ourselves?
When we give, do we offer God our leftovers, or do we give him our first fruits?
When we give, are we doing so to feel good about ourselves and our own Jesus-y generosity?
Are we giving because we want to, or because we feel that we have to?
Consider again the gifts made by the wealthy and the widow in this story.
One donor fed his own ego. The other donor fed the Lord.
And then ask yourself this: what kind of giver am I?
Questions for Reflection:
Let’s get honest: who are you in this story, the rich giver, contributing from your surplus, or more like the widow, giving generously from the heart? And if you’re like me, feeling uncomfortably more like the rich giver, what’s one way you can move a little closer toward the kind of generosity the widow displays?
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