Week Beginning November 26
One of the reasons the ancient tithe might not be a fair measure of giving is because a gift of ten percent from a person of means does not make a significant impact in that person’s life, while a gift of ten percent from someone living below the poverty level causes them great distress. Although they both offer ten percent of their livelihood, the first gives from abundance and the second gives from substance. C. S. Lewis says, “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.”
Just as we are challenged to love like God loves, we are challenged to give like He gives. Sacrificial giving allows us to walk in the footsteps of the Lord, who sacrificed everything for us. Our gifts become sacrificial when we give from our basic necessities rather than from our surplus. Only then do our gifts have the power to change us by molding our hearts to the desires of God and by forcing us to re-evaluate our priorities and values. We learn to go without something for the benefit of others. The joy of watching them flourish outweighs our discomfort and provides heartfelt meaning to our sacrifice.
When we give away what we think we need, we bear witness to the providence of God. We trust that His care for us is superior to anything we can derive from worldly goods. Our gifts go beyond mere financial transactions because they are connected to our faith. Our security does not come from monetary resources; our security rests in God.
We are called to invest in heavenly treasure, not earthly glory. Our giving takes on spiritual value when we forego our contentment in favor of our love for others and the Kingdom of God. Shiny stones lose their luster, gold melts away, and kingdoms fall. When the day arrives that we have nothing left to give but what remains in our hearts, our hearts will be filled with the mercy and charity that the Lord seeks from his disciples. We understand why Jesus says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
On Monday this week, we hear the story of the poor widow’s contribution (Luke 21:1-4). The widow, who gives her last two coins to the temple treasury, is rightfully lauded for her sacrificial gift. From the few short lines of this passage, we learn the following large lessons:
Jesus sees everything. He knows what is in our hearts, and he recognizes our sacrifices.
Discipleship comes at a cost. The disciple does not ask “what can I keep?” but rather “what can I give?”
It is not the size of the gift, but the intentions of the giver. Humble gifts made out of love for the glory of God are more spiritually valuable than large gifts taken from excess to exalt the giver.
Giving is mission-oriented, not self-serving. A temple that prioritizes its own external grandeur over the wellbeing of those inside of its boundaries will crumble. The temple fails in its mission when it abandons the widow to her poverty.