“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, ”Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4)
Jesus did something few pastors would dare do. During the offering he followed the ushers down the aisle so to speak, and examined each contribution put in the plate!
As God observes our giving today, how does he measure love, calibrate its intensity, or sound its depth? Jesus answers, “love is measured by the sacrifice it makes.” Bob, a Bible College student, asked for help with a difficult passage found in Luke 18. I guessed, “You’ve got problems with the story of the young wealthy aristocrat, right?”
Yes, he responded. “Why did Jesus tell him to sell what he had and give it away?” “Well,” I said, “the way to life for that young man was blocked by things, his sin of covetousness. For the woman at the well it was men, not money. Self-righteous Nicodemus needed to hear about a second birth. Jesus identified the key issue, the roadblock, for each.”
“I see,” said my young friend. “If possessions were his sticking point, would you say there are those today with a similar problem?” I wondered where Bob’s questioning was headed. “Yes,” I chuckled a little nervously, “Just about everyone, I suppose.” “Why then,” he asked, “have I never heard a sermon on the subject?” “That is a very good question, Bob, because Christ gave exactly the same teaching to anyone who wanted to be his disciple.” “Sell what you have and give alms, provide for yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys” (Luke 12:33).
Does anyone actually do this? Some years ago, I wanted to personally thank two of our graduates for their many generous gifts. When we had special needs, a gift of one or two thousand dollars would come from this couple. I wondered how they could do this being schoolteachers in a poor district of Appalachia. One day I called to see if a visit would be convenient. They were delighted – said they had something to tell me. Meeting me at the highway, they escorted me on foot through the muddy ruts that snaked around the hillside. There nestled in the little mountain cove was their home, a· small log cabin. That’s the reason they could give so generously! Or so I thought.
The husband was so excited. “Robertson, isn’t the Lord good?” he exclaimed.
“Yes, He is” I replied. “And how has He been good to you?”
“This week we were able to sell land to a government agent who will buy it over 10 years and give us $1,500 a year. So we’ve decided to take early retirement, go to the mission field, take care of MKs and live on what we get from the sale of this property! What do you think about that?”
“I think you’re crazy. What are you going to do when that money runs out?” I asked. “Oh,” he answered, “We’ll be in heaven by then!”
Love graduates a person from the secondary level of honest managership to the higher level of sacrificial love giving. While watching a television interview with Mother Theresa, I, along with the young woman interviewing her, swelled with pride as Mother Theresa told us how wonderful Americans are. She said, “I don’t know if there has ever been a nation that has been so generous. You are such generous people.” Mother Theresa continued, “Of course, you give out of your ‘muchness.”‘ She chuckled, “Muchness’ is a word, isn’t it?” She paused, then added, “You don’t really give until it hurts.” The young woman’s eyes grew large, astonished. “Must it hurt?” The angel of Calcutta responded, “Love, to be genuine, must hurt.” Love is proved by the sacrifice it makes …