Giving money is an important part of the Christian walk. One of my prior supervisors once said to me, “I remember the year I met Jesus. My wallet was saved ten years later.” His point is simple – he did not view his money as God’s money until many years after he started to follow Jesus.
Christian ministries can have a bad reputation for being obsessed with money. As individuals, follower of Jesus probably do not spend enough energy thinking about money from God’s perspective. Sometimes we give money out of habit or routine. Sometimes, we are so repelled by those who are obsessed with getting money we decide to not give any money. To help us orient ourselves around Jesus, I want to reflect on a moment in His life as told in Luke 21:1-4.
Jesus celebrates the faithfulness of the poor as opposed to the position of the rich
In this story, Luke notes how Jesus saw the rich dropping their offerings into the temple treasury. He also describes a poor widow who dropped in two tiny coins. In verse three we read his commentary, “this poor widow has put in more than all of them.”
Notice Jesus does not celebrate how much the rich are giving. He celebrates the faithfulness of the poor. Too often, we get excited by the big cheque a donor will write for our ministry, but we do not often enough celebrate the very significant gifts made by those who do not have much money.
Jesus celebrates those who are giving to “organized religion” – not just giving money to those in need
At the very beginning of the story, we see both rich and poor giving money to the temple treasury. This was used to address the ongoing costs of running the temple and all of the work done there.
I want you to notice Jesus never condemned the rich or the poor for giving to the temple treasury. In fact, he celebrates the gift of the poor widow to the temple treasury.
There are many people today who are against “organized religion”. They don’t mind giving money directly to those who are in need, but they would rather not support a system. So, they don’t give money to their local church or even to certain types of Christian organizations. Jesus celebrates the widow who gives to what we would have called “organized religion”.
Jesus is concerned more with your generosity than with the amount
There is a long debate in Christian circles over what percentage of money you should give. In this story, Jesus does not focus on percentages – he focuses on the heart.
He describes the rich as “giving from their surplus” and the poor widow as “giving all she had to live on.” From the perspective of Jesus, the rich person may have written a larger cheque, but the poor widow gave more.
Those who give a lot of money to Christian ministry work can convince themselves they are doing a great service to the Lord (and maybe they are). But the deeper question is how generous are you?
Generosity is about sacrifice
If someone looks to give what they have left over after all the bills have been paid, the sports programs have been covered, and the nights out eating steak have been enjoyed – then they have missed the point of Jesus’ teaching. The difference between the rich people and the poor widow was the level of sacrifice – not the size of the gift.
Jesus is looking for people who are willing to sacrifice so the work of God’s Kingdom can continue to move forward.
I recognize the cost of living continues to increase for all of us. We pay more for gas and for groceries, and it seems like it will never end.
I know of a number of local churches and Christian ministries who are either just maintaining their annual revenues or they are in decline. Yet, just like the costs of running your home are increasing – so are the costs associated with the work being done by local churches and ministries.
Many people have the attitude of having a set dollar amount they give each year. For example, you may think, “I give $1,000 a year to my church.” If you are in this camp, ask yourself a couple of questions:
- If my salary is increasing, but my giving is not – then how are my local church or ministries God has called me to support going to pay for their increased expenses?
- Am I giving out of my surplus, or am I giving generously?
Giving generously is a reflection of the generosity God has shown towards us through Jesus. It is a response to His overwhelming grace and mercy in our lives.