Poor giving

Poor giving

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. – Luke 21:1

Luke 21:1-4

 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 old days you could take your piggy bank filled with coins to the local bank have them counted out for paper currency.

Those days are not completely gone. Enter Coinstar.

Coinstar is a company that provides claim 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, chachung, chachung, and you’re done

In the temple 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 gilt. Imagine, chachung, chachung, chachung. Looking about, it would have been a proud moment indeed. 

As these events unfold Jesus is watching, He is watching carefully. What does He see? He sees one person who was extremely rich and another person who is extremely poor. They are both doing the same thing, giving. Most of us would focus on the rich man and the great quantity of what he gave. But the Lord Jesus does not. His attention is drawn to the poor widow. The comments the Lord Jesus makes reveal much about how the Father views giving.

Why were they giving? What is their motivation? The answer uncovers what makes giving poor or valued. What really matters? Certainly 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 rather considers the attitude of the giver’s heart. In doing so, the Father turns everything on its head. It is not how much someone gives away, but rather how much someone keeps. In the end, you might say that the poor widow got her two cents in.

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 a 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 be wise and generous in my giving.

INSIGHT

Giving is not merely about money. It’s 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.

Lev 19:9-10

 9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest.

 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.

Gleaning is all about sharing the harvest without giving away the farm.  

Feel bad about you? – Feel really bad about you!

Feel bad about you? – Feel really bad about you!

No one does good, not a single one. – Rom 3:12 

Rom 3:23-25 

 23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark (Michelangelo).

We often find ourselves wondering what other people think about us. We are naturally afraid that we won’t somehow measure up to some real or imagined standards of others.

Do you feel bad about you? The Father has a simple solution for this. Instead of measuring ourselves by other people’s standards, or even our own, we are to measure ourselves by His. Then when you recognize how far short we fall, you wind up feeling really, really bad!

There is a major difference between feeling relatively bad about yourself and feeling absolutely bad about yourself. When you feel relatively bad about yourself then you can try to improve yourself or avoid the bad feelings altogether. But when you feel absolutely bad about yourself then there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. This actually brings about a resolution.

When we evaluate ourselves in light of the Father’s standards, we always fall short. All of our self-concern dissipates. There is no longer any wondering about where we stand. Our blindness is removed and suddenly we see things as they really are. We are simply dismal failures. We all fall short! In a word we are condemned.

Does this new awareness make you feel better? Not so much. But it will. Absolutely condemned people are in desperate need of the mercy, graciousness, and love of the Father in heaven. Paul reminds us we were not on a friendly basis and making  vast improvements when the Father intervened. Rather when we were the Father’s enemies, that’s when He sent Christ to die for us. He intervened to resolve the lowest, worst part of our human condition. He sent Jesus as our sacrifice exactly for that.

Rom 5:10 While we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.

The Father has provided a major paradigm shift for all of His children. We stood helpless, completely and totally in the wrong and condemned. He sovereignly and freely declared us to be righteous. And so we are! We are now in the right.

Rom 3:24-25 

 24 God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.

Rom 5:1 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.

REFLECT & PRAY
 

You don’t drown by falling into water. You only drown if you stay there (Zig Ziglar).

Father thank you for lifting me out of the miry pit and placing me on solid ground.

INSIGHT
 

Suppose you are walking in rather swampy woods. Suddenly you find yourself a couple of steps into quicksand and rapidly sink up to your neck. First, you have to find a way out of the terrifying and deadly mess you find yourself in. Second, you have to get cleaned up. All the muck and mire covering you from the neck down has to be removed.

That is exactly what the Father has done! He has removed us from the miry pit, the ugly mess we made of our lives. Then He made us thoroughly clean as if it had never happened at all. We are no longer sullied. All the blots and blemishes are removed.

In a sense we have been put on trial and found guilty. We stood condemned. But the Father has done something absolutely wonderful and astonishing. We have a whole new legal standing. Through faith in Christ, we have been justified and declared righteous by God, once for all. The result of this is that the Christian no longer lives under the fear of judgment and the wrath of God but has peace with God, which is not merely a subjective feeling but an objective reality (ESV notes).

The enemy focuses on our old mess and rubs our noses in it. The Father focuses on our redemption and cleansed lives. He encourages each of His children.

This provides us with an unexpected, yet delightful opportunity. We can continue to focus on and recall to mind the dark failures of our lives, or we can focus on the clean, pure righteous redemption He has wrought. Darkness or light, the choice is ours.

Good reproof

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. – 2 Tim 3:16

2 Tim 3:16-17

 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.

 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

“Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind – you could call it ‘character in action.’

Mental toughness is essential to success.

Mental toughness is Spartanism, with all its qualities of self-denial, sacrifice, dedication, fearlessness, and love.

Brains without competitive hearts are rudderless.

If you’re lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he’s never going to come off the field second.

Teams do not go physically flat; they go mentally stale” (Vince Lombardi).

It’s just not natural to welcome or enjoy criticism. The Father equips each of His children and prepares them for success in the tasks He has for them. Reproof and correction are necessary components in the process. A proper response to criticism is necessary. Wherever there are people, there are sparks. What you do with the sparks makes all the difference in the world.

Job 5:7 People are born for trouble as readily as sparks fly up from a fire.

Troubles in life come one way or the other. Since the time of the Fall of Adam and Eve, life has been hard. It is the direct result of the Fall.

Gen 3:17-19

 17 The ground is cursed because of you [Adam]. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.

 18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.

 19 By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.

Sparks and troubles are part of our DNA. Is it a mistake to think we are always at fault for what happens in our lives? Of course! In many cases this may be true because we reap what we sow. But hard times are not simply a matter of cause and effect. The fact is we are fallen creatures living in a fallen world. The world is not out to get us. The world does not know we exist. The world is not sentiment. There are not random, senseless, cosmic forces at work to somehow punish us personally for what our first parents did.

Why is there personal suffering? Consider Joseph. Have you ever wondered why the entire account of creation takes up only two chapters in Genesis, but the life of Joseph requires 15 chapters to tell? Joseph’s difficult times and his response to them provides life lessons for us all.  

There was a great deal of suffering in Joseph’s life. It began with the jealousy of his brothers. They wanted to kill him. But instead they plotted against him and betrayed him. He was sold into slavery in Egypt. Because of his intelligence and excellent moral character he was admired and promoted.

But for the same reasons he was unjustly imprisoned and basically left to rot. But prison was preparation! There the Father prepared him for what was coming next. Upon release he was elevated to the highest position available in all of Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh. Joseph was the second survivalist in Scripture, Noah the first. He developed a survival plan for a predicted famine that saved countless numbers of people.

But he is greatest achievement was inward. He went from the potential throes of anger, resentment, and bitterness to gracious forgiveness for his brothers who had so wronged him.

Joseph described the reality and theological foundation for all that it happened.

Gen 45:7-8

 7 God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors.

 8 So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh– the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt.

Gen 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.
REFLECT & PRAY

Joseph learned and placed confidence in the “Who” and “whys” of the “whats” of his life.

Father I know and believe that you are always at work preparing me to be able to face and excel at whatever You have for me to do.

INSIGHT

The Father utilizes discipline to direct us away from ungodliness and to increase our fruitfulness. He will use difficult people and circumstances to prune away any deadwood – attitudes, behaviors, and relationships that do not fit a child of God (Stanley).

Reproof, criticism, correction, and discipline are not intended to be pleasant. Dark valleys are common to us all. When we are in the midst of the dark nights of our souls, we do not always respond well. We often fail. Temporary setbacks are normative. But overcoming sorrow, heavy burdens, and ill-treatment is the Father’s plan and purpose. The fulfillment of His will on earth as it is in heaven is the Father’s focus. We would do well to focus on the same.

Heb 12:11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening– it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

Life is full of trouble. But in the hands of a loving God, our suffering is being used for eternal purposes (Stanley).

Charles Stanley provides some helpful steps.

  • It’s important to respond well and evaluate criticism correctly.
  • Do not immediately reject the comment, blame the person, or defend yourself. Instead, consider what was said, and ask God to help you discern if it’s true.
  • Thank the person for his interest in you and explain that you’ll reflect on his observation.
  • Evaluate the criticism and determine what exactly is under scrutiny—your beliefs, your character.
  • View this as an opportunity for growth, and if necessary, apologize.
  • Instead of allowing criticism to lead you into anger and self-pity, you should let it do its work in your life.

The Cancel Culture

“Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” – John 9:25

Isa 5:20-21

 20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!

Cancel culture, also called callout culture, is the public denouncement of those people or products judged guilty in an effort to ruin their popularity and credibility. What is deemed appropriate or inappropriate is totally determined by the groupthink of those doing the canceling. 

There are certain assumptions that pervade cancel culture. Cancel culture imagines that are two categories of people. Those that are born “woke” (morally progressive) who are good, and those that are not born “woke” who are bad. Could this be rather arrogant and naive? People can and do change in their opinions, views, and ideologies over time. 

While many would agree that it is necessary to call out bigotry, who decides what bigotry really looks like in our society today? Who determines what groups are favored and thus the potential targets of bigotry? Who decides which groups are unfavored? What is deemed appropriate or inappropriate is totally determined by the groupthink of those doing the canceling. It begs the well-worn question: who controls the controllers?

It is important for people to take responsibility for their past actions but cancel culture does not give individuals being called out opportunity to do so. Instead, the real or imagined incriminating evidence is used to simply cancel a person. Apologies are not accepted. There is no opportunity for reconciliation, redemption, or forgiveness. 

Rather than simply holding people accountable, it has become a rationalization to demean, shame, and insult people. Those individuals regarded as unacceptable or problematic are excommunicated from public life. What arrogance! In an attempt to callout real or perceived bigotry, do the cancelers demonstrate that they themselves are bigots? Are they bibliophobic and Christphobic?

Cancel culture has created a toxic environment of fear. The opportunity for dissenting views, education, and unity are lost. It is a form of modern day bullying! Yet bullying is one of the things they attempt to cancel.

What’s really going on?

The Father’s absolutes are just that. They are always true and right, they never very, change, or compromise. The Father gave them to provide a moral compass. 

Modern man has abandoned the concept of moral absolutes entirely. Anything that you think is right is right for you. The only thing that you know for sure is you can’t know anything for sure. Or putting it more oxymoronically, “I’m absolutely sure there are no absolutes,” is often heard in college.

The trouble is that we cannot live without absolutes. Once we abandon the Father’s absolutes, we make up our own. This is nothing new, it has been around for millennia.

Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Ecc 8:11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.

REFLECT & PRAY

When God in His Word calls something evil, it is evil. When He labels a thing bitter [no one] can make it sweet. God is our absolute authority (Stanley).

Father help me to live consistently by your moral absolutes and certainly not rush to judgment regarding those with whom I disagree.    

INSIGHT

The Father’s perspective is often just the opposite of people who are blinded in their moral judgment. People with moral blindness, call evil good and good evil.

Isa 5:20-21

 20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!

A subtle interplay exists between self-deception and arrogance. When people reject God’s authority and absolute standards, they set themselves up as the final and ultimate authority. 

Good things are reinterpreted as evil. Evil, immoral acts are twisted into what appears to be good.

They redefine the meaning of words and rules according to their own preferences. Sin is rationalized. Truth is counterfeited by error and deception. New definitions of sin undermine moral standards. 

People use God’s vocabulary but Not His dictionary (Wiersbe). 

Psalm 12:2 People lie to each other, speaking with flattering lips and deceitful hearts.

Without an absolute standard of divine justice, false human reasoning and uncontrolled passion can rationalize and justify almost any act, particularly if the primary criterion is “Will it benefit me?” When sweet and bitter, light and darkness, and good and evil are relative values based on wishes, whims, and selfish ends, righteousness and justice do not exist (Clendenen). 

In New Testament times, most Jewish leaders were opposed to Jesus. They were convinced that the Lord Jesus Christ was a sinner. When He healed a man born blind, rather than respond in faith to the miracle and worship the Lord Jesus Christ, they called out the blind man and they cancelled him. The blind man retorted, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25). In response they threw him out, ostracizing him from the synagogue. The Lord Jesus found him and spoke with him.

John 9:39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.”

2 Thess 2:11-12

 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false,

 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.