I’ve attended many gatherings at churches, conferences and other gatherings of God’s people and observed a variety of offerings. I’ve had ‘white-gloved’ ushers extend a pole with a cloth bag attached in front of me so I could contribute while others have simply had a box where donations could be privately inserted. I grew up with a birthday box where on your birthday you deposited coins (pennies if I recall) that matched your age. We were taught to give, encouraged to give and were surrounded by givers. I’ve had plenty of opportunity to give and to watch others give.
One of the most stirring offerings I ever witnessed was in a very poor country. I had been visiting on a ministry trip and saw the destitution firsthand, yet on the Lord’s Day, when the offering was taken, these people gave. I must confess to having blurry vision for awhile from the tears that filled my eyes as I saw incredible sacrifice.
The temple had a treasury container which was viewable in the courts of worship. During the final days before Good Friday, Jesus spent many hours at the temple, teaching, answering questions and observing various ‘religious’ behaviours. On one of the days, he watched the giving.
“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.”
There are all kinds of givers. Some are very ostentatious, or so it seems, and call for a press conference when they donate. They have their photo taken and perhaps a building or two named after them to recognize such generosity. Their donations become news stories and super-sized cheques are visible for all the world to see. It ‘looks good’ to be generous, doesn’t it?
The widow with the two very small copper coins–not so much. We have no description, but perhaps she shuffled up to the treasury, waiting for a break in the crowds before she made her donation. She came. She gave. She left. She never expected that in 2016 and through hundreds of years her example would be Spirit-embedded into the text of Scripture. She thought perhaps that no one noticed.
But Jesus had observed her giving, just as he observes ours. He saw the sacrifice as she may have left the temple area with insufficient funds for today’s needs. ‘Insufficient funds’ yet an ‘all sufficient God.’
I take it, the prosperity gospel preachers don’t use this text too often. Did she end up with health, wealth and prosperity because of her giving? The text is silent. Instead, the Master called his disciples and set her forth as an example of generosity.
His words speak for themselves, as they always do. They leave us pondering our own generosity, or lack of it. I’ve often wondered if Christians had to live on 10 times what they gave, would our standard of living have to adjust? This kind of hilarious abandonment to the purposes of God should mark those who have received God’s ‘super-abundant’ grace!
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.”
She came. She gave. She left a huge standard set into the pages of holy Scripture for us to wrestle with as we are given the privilege of giving.