Just as Jesus knew about the woman and her two copper coins, God knows about us and our giving and God cares deeply about our giving.
Does Your Giving Matter?
Does it make any difference what we give? Does anybody care?
"And Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two copper coins, which make a penny" (Luke 21:1-2).
It was all she had, the whole bundle. It was not something given out of abundance; it was as if she had cleaned out her savings and checking account and took it and dumped it in the treasury. She was now flat broke -- and Jesus was watching.
This is one of those stories in which I wish Jesus would have gone after the woman and asked her what her gift was about. But it seemed he knew. He knew this woman understood something that most people don't -- it did not belong to her and she gave it all.
Do you think God knows what you give? Do you think God cares?
Each day you have 24 hours of time. Do you think God cares whether or not you share part of that time in an act of love and service for someone else? You have been given talents. Does God care whether or not you use those talents to bring light and hope into a world of brokenness? We all have money. Does God care whether we are tight-fisted or generous givers?
I think just as Jesus knew about the woman and her two copper coins, God knows about us and our giving. I also think that God cares deeply about our giving. Why?
God created us in his image. Part of that image is being a giver. We will never be who God intends us to be until we learn to give like God.
Furthermore, God wants us to have abundant life. In the gospel of John, Jesus says, "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
Lots of people look at these words and think Jesus is talking about the life hereafter. But Jesus is speaking about now. Jesus wants us to have an abundant life now. Abundant means more than having stuff and money. Abundant means having hope and joy. The only way that happens is when we give of ourselves in the service of others and in the name of Jesus.
Generous givers understand what abundant living is all about. God wants us to be able to share in the abundant life right now.
Yes, God knows about our giving and cares about our giving. Jesus, who watched the widow at the treasury, takes note of how we give, why we give and how much we give. The good news is that there is a principle of great equality in our giving. Jesus says, "To whom much is given, much is required." There is nothing unreasonable about that standard. It makes the ground level when we come to the offering plate. If we have been given much, we should be giving from that bounty a gift commensurate with what we have been given. It saddens me to realize that the very opposite of that is true. In America today, the reality is that the more we have, the smaller the portion of our gifts we give to others. As our income goes up the percentage of what we give comes down.
Dr. Frank Harrington, one of America's most outstanding preachers said, "We have such great expectations of God. We want him to be near in every time of need. We count on him being the one who 'never slumbers or sleeps' and yet we rarely face the reality that maybe he has great expectations of us, as well. Surely you have some gift that you can give to God. The gift of your heart is the place to start ... and once you have given your heart, then you will begin to look for ways to share your time, your talent and your money and come to know the abundant life of which Jesus spoke."
Let me say that your gifts are needed. This Christian family at Augustana and the communities in which you live need for you to share your time and your talent and your money.
In this place we have children to teach, youth to help mature in the faith, adults who need a word of hope, sick and shut-in to be visited and those grieving to sense that they do not walk alone. Outside this congregation there are those who need to be fed and clothed, to have a place to sleep, to be free of violence and fear of their lives.
In the greater world there are those who wait to hear the good news of the gospel, those who have a right to know there will be food and clothing and freedom from catastrophic disease. If we do not think these things to be important, if they are not worthy of our generous gifts of time, talent and money, then Augustana is not the place for you to be, for this is our calling. It is the same Jesus who calls us, who sat by the treasury one day and watched a poor widow put in the offering all that she had.
This morning as you make your pledge of time, talent and money for 1997, I ask that you be generous, that you grow boldly in your giving.
Jesus cares about you. Jesus also cares about what you do in his name. Jesus wants you to experience the abundant life. Is this really enough? What observation would Jesus make about our giving?
Rev. Gary L. Langness is ELCA Pastor and Stewardship Leader.
Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa (ignaciogarcialosa.com) via Flickr. Used by permission.