Poor giving ∙
And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. – Luke 21:1
1 While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box.
2 Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins.
3 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them.
4 For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”
Remember the “good old days” when you could take your piggy bank filled with coins to the local bank and have them counted out for paper currency? Those days are not completely gone. Enter Coinstar.
Coinstar is a company that provides coin-counting kiosks. Coins are counted and converted into cash, gift cards, or donations to charity. Many major US supermarkets have Coinstar kiosks. You can bring your coins and toss them in. Select your desired exchange option. Clink, clink, cha-ching, cha-ching, and you’re done
In the Jewish temple at the time of the Lord Jesus Christ, there was an area called the treasury. The treasury had thirteen trumpet-shaped collection containers. They were narrow at the top and wider at the bottom.
People would throw their coins into the trumpets. It does not take much imagination to visualize the coins hitting the top and ricocheting their way down making noise as they went. The bigger the offering the louder the noise. Perhaps the phrase, “blowing your own horn” is somehow distantly related to this.
Imagine the impoverished widow with her two coins. She tosses them in, and they almost imperceptibly go, clink, clink, clink. The rich man comes along and tosses in a lot of gelt. Imagine the sound, clunk, clunk, cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching. It would have been a proud moment indeed.
As the account plays out, the Lord Jesus Christ is watching. He is watching carefully. What does He observe? He sees one person who was extremely rich and another who was extremely poor. They are both doing the same thing, giving. Most observers would probably focus on the impressive, attention-grabbing, grand offering of the rich man. But the Lord Jesus Christ instead focuses on the poor widow. His words provide insight into the Father’s perspective regarding giving. What matters is not the size of the gift, but the size of the giver’s heart.
What is the motivation behind their giving? The why is more important than the what. The why reveals what makes giving poor or valued. What matters? It is not what we would naturally think. It is normal to be impressed with the size of a gift, with little regard to the personal sacrifice that went into it. The Father is not impressed by the size of gifts. But instead, He evaluates the attitude of the giver’s heart.
In doing so, the Father turns everything on Its head. What really matters is not how much someone gives away, but rather how much someone keeps. When we realize this, it should provoke a searching, somewhat humbling self-evaluation.
Two things determine the value of any gift. First, the spirit in which it is given. Good gifts are the inevitable outflow of a loving heart. The second is the sacrifice which it involves. That which is a mere trifle to one person may be a vast sum to another. The gifts of the rich did not really cost them much, but the gift of the widow cost her everything she had (Barclay).
Some people give because they cannot help it. There is a kind of reckless generosity at work. Others minutely calculate precise percentages to obtain their appropriate amount.
“No one has ever become poor by giving” (Anne Frank). Yet, people can become impoverished by not giving.
REFLECT & PRAY
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness” (Martin Luther King, Jr).
Father encourage me to follow the example of the poor widow and be wise and generous in my giving.
Giving is not merely about money. It is also about time, caring, listening, sharing, nurturing, and being interested in and responding to the needs of others. In the Torah, the five books of Moses, the Father laid out principles of sharing. One of His principles is the practice of gleaning.
9 When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop.
10 It is the same with your grape crop – do not strip every last bunch of grapes from the vines, and do not pick up the grapes that fall to the ground. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners living among you
Gleaning is all about sharing the harvest. It is not about giving away the farm.
Giving generously is a skill that can be learned. We can learn to give generously, yet not give away the farm. Paul lays out principles in a matter-of-fact way on how to achieve this. As the Father prospers us, we share out of our abundance. In modern terms, we generously give out of our abundance, without diminishing our principal.
2 Corinthians 9:6-8
6 Remember this – a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.
7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”
8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
“Paul’s emphasis falls on the value of advanced planning and preparation rather than last-minute scrambling and the resultant pressure” (Ciampa and Rosner). Good giving is planned giving. There was to be “No pressure, no gimmicks, no emotion” (Garland). As the Father provides success or prosperity, we are to set aside a portion of it for providing for others. The greater the abundance, the greater our ability to give. “Although he does not say as much, such a plan will also ensure a greater gift than a single collection” (Fee).
Each of us should set aside a portion of what we have received as a result of the Father’s blessing (1 Corinthians 16:2).
In the first century A.D., there were no paychecks or direct deposits. People that could, earned money through labor, farming, fishing, etc. Some weeks, or even seasons, there may be an abundance. At other times there may be nothing at all. Many of the children of the King were slaves and had no income.
Again, what matters is not the size of the gift, but the size of the giver’s heart.
Luke 18:27 “What is impossible for people is possible with God.”