Read Luke 21:1-4
1 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (NIV)
Some years ago, an individual made a significant bequest to a church where I was ministering. There was much discussion as to how best respond to the bequest (apart of course from accepting it which we did with ease!). Was a letter of thanks enough? Should we do more? Some thought we should ‘kill the fatted calf’ and celebrate formally. Others figured that we don’t do that when others give to the church so why be different on this occasion. Did the size of the gift determine our response?
This passage forces us to examine the issue of generosity. Some give a lot and still have a lot left over. Some don’t give much but have little left over. This doesn’t make one form of giving superior to the other. Jesus wasn’t attacking rich people for their giving in this episode. He was rather commenting that the raw amount we give is not a sure indicator of our generosity. We dare not despise the generosity of the relatively rich out of a form of perverse snobbery. We dare not despise the minimal giving of the poor out of a mistaken idea that the amount of money we give is all that matters.
Generosity has more to do with the state of our hearts than the state of our bank balance. And it is true that what we have left over is perhaps a better indicator of real generosity than the amount we give. To stress again, this doesn’t negate the generosity of the comparatively rich, but nor does it make them more generous than those who give less. On the other hand, though, we must be careful not to justify our miserly giving by piously muttering about the heart is what counts.
Jesus is making the point that true generosity is sacrificial. It isn’t a feel-good gesture or a tax dodge. It isn’t a way of showing off or getting into God’s good books. It is an expression of trust. I give some of my wealth away trusting God will look after me. I give some of my wealth away because others can benefit from it. I give some of my wealth away because ultimately it doesn’t belong to me but, like all things, belongs to God.
I give some of my wealth away because it reminds me that my wealth does not define me or even give me my final security. As Jim Elliot once said, he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.