Tag Archives: giving

Giving as Trust

The simple story of the widow’s gift in the temple has fascinated me for years.

the-poor-widows-offeringJesus sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44

In a past post I wrote about how Jesus may be chastising the temple officials for taking the last coins of a poor widow. That still may be true, yet one cannot help but notice, as Jesus does, the trusting heart of the widow. Then this week I read a story that underscored the emphasis of giving as trust.

The Rev. Gordon Cosby was the founder and pastor of the Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C. When Cosby was a young man, minister of a small Baptist congregation in a railroad town just outside of Lynchburg, Virginia he got a call from a church deacon. Cosby later wrote

My deacon told me that he wanted my help. “We have in our congregation,” he said, “a widow with six children. I have looked at the records and discovered that she is putting into the treasury of the church each month $4.00 – a tithe of her income. Of course, she is unable to do this. We want you to go and talk to her and let her know that she needs to feel no obligation whatsoever, and free her from the responsibility.”

I am not wise now [writes Gordon]; I was less wise then. I went and told her of the concern of the deacons. I told her as graciously and as supportively as I know how that she was relieved of the responsibility of giving. As I talked with her the tears came into her eyes. “I want to tell you,” she said, “that you are taking away the last thing that gives my life dignity and meaning.”

“I tried to retrieve the situation. I was unable to do it. I went home and pondered the story of Jesus in the temple watching the people put their offerings in the collection plate. Jesus’ attitude amazed me. He had the audacity to watch what people were putting in the collection plate. Not only did he have the audacity to watch, he had the audacity to comment. Of the rich who put in large sums he said, “They put in what they can easily afford.” Of the poor widow who dropped in two coins, he said, “She in her poverty, who needs so much, has given away everything, her whole living.” I knew I would have said to her, “Let us take this to the council. We have a sensible council that always makes exceptions and I know that they will relieve you of your discipline of giving.” From Letters to Scattered Pilgrims by Elizabeth O’Conner.

Giving can go beyond sensible into the realm of trust and devotion.  Giving reorients us to the core of our lives.

Lord Jesus, teach me to give with total trust and devotion.

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Giving Perspective

Yesterday I preached on “What Happens When You Give.” I listed five things that happen when you give money to your congregation. Personally my favorite reason was #4, “When You Give You Gain Perspective.”

Mission JamaicaHave you ever met someone who went on a foreign mission trip? Those can be expensive.   Between food, airfare and supplies, someone could easily spend thousands of dollars traveling to another country to work with children or work on a house. I have traveled to Jamaica to help build homes for needy families and I know how expensive a trip can be.

But when these short-term missionaries return and talk, they use words like “incredible” and “life changing.” They talk about the experience like it was one of the most important things they’ve ever done, no matter what the cost may have been.

I’ve never met anyone that said, “Man, I wish I hadn’t raised all that money to go to Jamaica and help people…I would have rather used that money to buy an Iphone or laptop.”

You never hear that story because spending money on others in need feels right.  It gives us a new perspective on the values of life.

People often regret something they buy, but they rarely regret something they give to others.

Financial giving to your congregation gives you a new perspective on what it means to have and how rich you already are. You see your church not as a market that dispense religious goods for your benefit, but rather as a community where you are invested and connected. It is not about getting more stuff, but touching more lives for Jesus sake.

Money HeartJesus taught, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21.

I want my heart to line up with Jesus’ treasure. Giving to Jesus’ mission helps make that alignment real.

Thank you, Jesus, for investing in me. Help me to gain your perspective.

Cheerful Giving

Like many of you I have received year-end giving appeals from various organizations, many of them Christian. I realize that many (if not all) realize that people make year-end contributions for two main reasons. The first is the year-end tax deduction that one can receive from the IRS for charitable giving. The other is the “Holiday Spirit” when people feel more charitable.

A part of me sometimes chafes at such reasoning.  “A true and pure Christian would simply give out of love of God, no matter what time of year it is.” But is that just being cynical and snide?

In the Old Testament, the people were instructed to give their offering with the first harvest. It was when they actually had something to give.

Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest (Lev. 23:10).

I’ve come to think that God is very practical and earthy, not so idealistic as I sometime make God to be. God knows that our hearts need encouragement in giving. Many of us are not instantly generous. If the IRS or the “Christmas Spirit” gives you an incentive to give to your favorite charity, then go for it. And if that helps you become a more generous person, give thanks to God.

Which reminds me of a story of a congregation where a guest missionary preach. After her sermon, an offering was taken by the ushers. The usher stopped by one grim-looking member who refused to pass the offering plate. The usher whispered, “It’s for the mission work in Africa.” The member still refused. The usher whispered louder, “Don’t you care about unbelievers?” Still no response. Finally the usher in a voice everyone could hear, “Then why don’t you take some out, it’s for pagans like you anyway.”

Our generosity is to be a fruit of our trust in Jesus.

With that thought made, I would encourage you to make a year-end contribution to your local congregation. And since this blog is an outgrowth of Resurrection Lutheran Church where I am a pastor, you are welcomed to make a contribution to Resurrection if this blog has been a blessing to you in the past year.

Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous towards others.