For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:4 ESV)
Worship done in the form of giving is not always easy. I love to give. My wife and I make it a regular part of our life, but it can be a stretch sometimes. It is especially difficult during a tough financial season. That kind of giving takes a level of faith that really stretches me.
Jesus, observing the widow’s offering, pointed out the enormity of her small gift.
Financially speaking, it would not set any records, and it wouldn’t bankroll the ministry for the foreseeable future. But in terms of faith, she gave an incredible sum. She gave her livelihood.
I wonder what passed through her mind as she released the small coins. Was she fearful? Was she confident? I don’t know. Perhaps she was merely caught up in the sweet reality of her act of worship.
I want to be able to give God my best. I want to offer all I have, and all I am, to Him, to be used for His purpose. I really want to. But the truth is that sometimes I hold back. Sometimes I am reserved. All too often I simply miss the point. There are a lot of reasons this happens. None that I am proud of.
The widow’s standard of giving is an incredibly faithful goal to shoot for. She offered all that she had. My prayer is that I would have the faithful courage to do the same.
The greatest among you shall be your servant. (Matthew 23:11 ESV)
Jesus was not a fan of the scribes, a sect of religious teachers that had become lost in corruption. They were overly harsh with the general population and used their position as a means to extort people for monetary gain. They were crooks and thieves mascara ding as clergy. They loved the honor of their position, but squandered their influence rather than leverage to help their people who were suffering under Roman rule.
Jesus teaching was very contrary to the scribes’ example. He taught that position was not something to seek after or brandish as a badge, but rather it is the natural acquisition of someone in unselfish service to God. In God’s kingdom you must serve to be great. The measure of human greatness is determined by the amount of love and service demonstrated in one’s life. We like to be honored. Sometimes it can be completely natural to want recognition, but Jesus taught that true love, service, and greatness bypass those things.
It can be a simple thing. Serving doesn’t have to be sacrificial or lengthy. Often the most monumental acts of service are done from a place of sacrifice, but we must not overlook the simplicity of demonstrating loving service daily. Opening the door for someone or helping them with a simple chore are two really easy ways to serve.
How will you serve someone today?
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 ESV)
In life there are those moments when you arrive at a situation and it seems daunting. It seems impossible. You feel inadequate, underprepared, unqualified, and unable. The situation seems beyond you.
Sometimes we come up against those moments and are faced with an inadequacy borne of our own failures, fallen nature, or frailty. There are also occasions when life’s many hardships back us into a corner and the climb out seems like something we are incapable of. Jesus knows that we need help. He is the help.
Following the story of the Rich Young Ruler the disciples were amazed at the standard for followship that Jesus had set. If someone like that young man, who seemed to have his life together, could not follow Christ, then who could?
Jesus cautioned against bringing, or keeping, things in your life that could distract or distance you from God. He knew that we can not possibly follow after him under our own power. The power to live for God is a power only found in Christ. For man alone walking the Christian walk is impossible.
Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21 ESV)
I am pretty convinced that most of us have a fairly selfish streak that runs right through the middle of who we are. It affects our thoughts, behaviors, and attitudes. It often keeps us from stepping fully into the kind of richly selfless life that Jesus is calling us to live.
That was the experience that the man often called the Rich Young Ruler had with Christ. He was devout. He was dutiful. He was prosperous. But when Christ called him to enter into a new kind of selfless living and thinking, the young man balked at the prospect of losing all that he had. In his words he had kept all of the laws and rules of God, but in his failing to obediently give all that he had away he missed the point of following Jesus.
Today, just like during Jesus’ days of public ministry, it is really easy to allow dogmatic religious observance to cloud authentic Christian caring. Jesus didn’t want the young man to give all of his stuff away because he wanted the guy to be poor. He wanted the rich young guy to extravagantly give away his many possessions because they had become more important to him than obedience to God.
There are still days, even after all my years in ministry, when I need to take a good look at my self. I have to ask myself if I have done more than keep the moralistic rules that I know to follow. Yes, Jesus sets out a guideline for behavior through his teachings, but often it is all about giving it all away.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 ESV)
Jesus emphatically and repeatedly declared that the disciples were to serve God by serving the people. It was the climax of his teaching after chastising the sons of Zebedee for their misplaced enthusiasm. They were to serve by giving and give by serving.
Our charge today is the same. As harbingers of the Gospel we are to take the message of the good news of Jesus Christ to e lost, hurts marginalized, and destitute. We are to take it to everyone. We are to give it to them by serving them.
Too often Christians polarize around the implied possibility of potential Christian martyrdom. Either we embrace, seek, and expect to give our lives to Christ, or we shy away from any form of reverent selfless sacrifice. What if the example demonstrate by Christ was his attempt to teach that we are to find a balance in both?
Jesus wished to serve, and his service was culminated in giving his life. But his work did not end there. In fact, his ultimate sacrifice was really just the launching point for two millennia of building. He gave to serve. He served to give.
What are we doing?
Read: Matthew 6:1-4
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (Matthew 6:3 ESV)
Have you ever known someone that did something incredibly generous, but then completely soiled on it by making a big deal out of it? Generosity was never meant to become a spectacle. It’s like those TV shows that take some genuinely deserving person in need of an upgraded home and make this huge ordeal out of building them a newer bigger one. Perhaps, they do actually want to help people, but at the end of the day they are after ratings and advertising dollars. True generosity is accomplished in secret.
Jesus was pretty clear about this. The Pharisees and other religious folk accompanied their generous actions with much pomp and fanfare. Jesus said that a pure heart will give without recognition. Obviously you can not give and keep it a secret from your own body, that wasn’t his point. Jesus’ point was to give, authentically, and more so, purely.
To give with sincere motives means to give while expecting nothing in return. Generosity in its highest form takes place when there is neither recognition nor reward to be gained. No horns. No parades. No pats on the back. Perhaps not even a “Thank you.” And maybe even resentment, hostility, and/or hatred.
Read: Matthew 5:38-42
Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. (Matthew 5:42 ESV)
My bank account is not overflowing with staggering financial figures. My wife and I do not own our home. We don’t drive new vehicles. We love to give. We especially love to give to people who have no idea we are doing it. That’s the best. I’m not trying to put us up on some kind of religious pedestal. I simply want to point out a principle Jesus taught that we are embracing.
Giving is powerful. It creates in you a condition of surrender that says to God, “Ok, Lord, everything I have is in reality Yours. It can be used by You, for You, and through You. Distribute it as You please.” There is an indescribable amount of freedom that comes with a lack of attachment to your stuff.
Jesus gave EVERYTHING. To those who hated, accused, slandered, mocked, abused, and murdered him he in turn poured out his blood, sweat, tears, mercy, healing, grace, and life. Jesus gave EVERYTHING.
The overwhelming pattern of the Gospel is this. GIVE. Give your money, your time, your desires, your finances, and your life to God and to others. He will use it in better ways than you could ever hope to. If you try to keep it, you will lose it. If you let it go you will actually find that the power of the truth was hiding from you all along.