We’re entering the end of the calendar year. 2018 is almost over, beckoning us to contemplate on the next year and beyond.
Maybe you’re not there yet. I understand.
Going backward in time from January 1st of next year, we have:
- New Years Eve
- Post-Christmas (Does anyone know what you’re supposed to do during these last few days? I’m still not sure.)
- Christmas Eve
- (My sister’s birthday!)
- Cyber Monday
- Black Friday
That’s a lengthy list.
And holidays are nothing but costly. They cost time, money, attentiveness, and emotions.
So even if you’re not thinking about 2019 and beyond, you’re most certainly thinking about the coming holiday season(s). And as a result, you’re most likely considering the cost of them too.
But I don’t want to talk about money here the way you might be expecting. I want to talk about what I’ve been learning in my own heart about giving. And I specifically mean giving money.
Here’s a story I want us to consider in our discussion:
‘Sitting across from the temple treasury, [Jesus] watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little.’ – Mark 12:41-42
Read that again if that helps you capture the image of what’s going on here.
What’s happening is something like this:
Jesus was sitting around with his disciples, probably chatting about who would be first in the kingdom or something like that. At some point, Jesus zoned out of the conversation and zoned into observing some obviously rich people walking up to give money to the temple.
Now, this is a really, really good thing to do. What they’re doing is praiseworthy. They’re rocking the Lottie Moon offering here. That church goal of $10,000 for missions–surpassed in one check! Boom, chaka laka.
They walk away, but Jesus isn’t watching them anymore. Meanwhile, the disciples notice Jesus checked out a while ago, and they start watching what he’s watching: an old, poor widow.
She drops in two quarters. Yes, 50 cents. That’s not making a dent in the thankfully-now-surpassed $10,000 missions fundraising goal. The rich people noticed her gift. How precious, they think. The disciples noticed too. That’s good, but not much really. We left our jobs and financial securities for Jesus.
But thankfully for everyone involved, and most importantly, Jesus noticed. And this is what he did and said:
‘Summoning his disciples, he said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had —all she had to live on.”’ – Mark 12:43-44
She did what?! Jesus says she “put more into the treasury than all the others.”
I remember from 1st grade that 10,000 is greater than 0.50. Right? (Maybe it was 2nd grade.)
(Google even says it’s 10,000. I checked.)
So what is Jesus talking about? What does he mean 50 cents is more than $10,000?
He explains with a little more detail, “For they gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had–all she had to live on.”
The rich people gave out of their surplus. They had a surplus of at least $10,000! I’m not kidding here when I say I wish I had a surplus of half that.
This is why I mentioned thinking about 2019 and beyond before. This is why I mentioned the holidays and money and giving. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about wanting a job that pays well. I mean, really well. I want to make money. I want to have a surplus out of which to give. I really do. I want to be able to take care of a family, provide for tangible needs in my church and community, buy a decent house, stock my library, have a reliable car, and meet those $10,000 goals with ease. I would love that. And I don’t think any of that desire is inherently wrong.
I used to think having a lot of money was evil. Now I realize it’s the love of money that’s the problem.
So I’ve been thinking about trying to get a better paying job. Or thinking about going back to school to get a master’s degree that could result in a high paying job and career. I’ve thought about it a lot recently. I want to love others and love God with my money. And I’ve thought I needed a lot of money to do that effectively.
And I realized I was wrong.
I realized when I read what Jesus said about the poor widow could be true of me. I could give more than the wealthiest people I know. By living paycheck to paycheck (yeah, really), I could give even more than people with thousands invested and in assets. I could even give more now than in the future (if I end up making more money in the future, which is more likely than not).
In God’s economy, which is wonky to our limited perspective, my giving can be more in God’s eyes than I think it is. And I don’t need a lot to give a lot.
You don’t need a lot to give a lot.
And people who make a lot less money than I do around the world are giving way more than I do to the Church. What a humbling realization!
God’s economy doesn’t compute. The bottom line seems written in by pen regardless of the numbers above. It’s a mystery. But we get to participate in it. By giving money you are participating in the coming of the kingdom. By giving money you are demonstrating your citizenship in the economy of heaven. By giving money you are showing the world that money isn’t worth what it’s worth to the world.
Giving out of surplus is commendable. Giving out of a generous and cheerful heart is amazing.
But giving out of lack is worth the attention and commendation of Jesus.
Think about this story as the holidays approach. Think about what Jesus notices in the widow.
Pray for the heart of a poor, old widow.
– Matt Welborn