When the tabernacle was set up, every tribe gave offerings which were lavish. This reminds me of Israel’s gifts to the temple in David’s time. Which then makes me think of the widow’s mite and how humility and faith are the most important attitudes in giving…
10 When the altar was anointed, the leaders brought their offerings for its dedication and presented them before the altar. 11 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Each day one leader is to bring his offering for the dedication of the altar.”
12 The one who brought his offering on the first day was Nahshon son of Amminadab of the tribe of Judah.
13 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 14 one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 15 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 16 one male goat for a sin offering; 17 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Nahshon son of Amminadab.
12 Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name.
14 “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.
41 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. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
Some of us give lavish offerings to God’s work. Lavish in the eyes of the world. Others of us give the equivalent of two copper coins. Meager in the eyes of the world. Yet God’s economy doesn’t work the same as ours. He sees our gifts from heaven’s viewpoint, and there are a few clarifying principles in these readings.
David’s prayer from 1Chronicles teaches us a humble stance before God. When we realize that all of our wealth comes from the hand of God and not solely from our plans and talents and hard work, we will understand that we are giving back to God. We are not giving to God. We return God’s blessing and abundance back to him.
The widow teaches us that this humble stance does not depend on how big our abundance is. Sometimes when we count our resources and see them dwindling, we take more control over what we have and we act miserly toward God. Our wealth is just as much God’s when we have less of it as it is when our storehouses are full. The widow teaches that in our poverty, we ought to give God’s blessing back to him.
Her approach teaches us further, in that the widow put herself in a position which is difficult for the wealthy to achieve. In this truth, the poor among us have a decided advantage over the wealthy among us. The widow put in all she had to live on. Her gift, in the eyes of the world, threatened her livelihood. The widow is living in a complete and undeniable faith relationship with God because of her gift.
And she gave it anyway. Would we?
The wealthy have much difficulty achieving this position of faith because often they give a portion (as generous as it might be) which leaves several other portions behind. The widow had nothing left behind.
The other day I wrote a cheque to a ministry Lucy and I love and support. I was feeling generous, I will confess, in part because I knew our tax refund had been deposited in our bank account. I hadn’t looked at the account, yet I knew the rough amount of the refund and made assumptions of what our balance would be.
After the cheque was in the hands of the ministry, I logged into my bank account. Although the tax refund was there, several offsetting withdrawals and payments all but nullified its impact. I had just written a cheque which I might not have written had I look online first. My generosity was less pure than the widow’s because of my confidence. Now, our home renovation projects might be delayed. We will have to consider more carefully how spend our next dollars.
Confession: part of me was a bit sorry I wrote the cheque. Until today. Today I realize again that I gave back to God what he gave to me. Today I remember that the work of that ministry is more impactful in the lives of very very needy people who struggle to eat and live than my new front door will ever be in suburbia. I have a front door now. Some of the needy people do not.
I recognize the tension in these matters. There is a difference in the cost of living in the first world and the third world. My ongoing success and ability to generate income provides more opportunity in the future to give again. If I give it all away now, how will I give tomorrow? I get it. It’s complicated. Enter God. God can give and God can take away. God can create wealth out of thin air and vaporize my success overnight.
Our decisions to give ought to be based on God’s prompting and a humble attitude of faith. I can wait to see what the ministry does with God’s money.