Giving Our All

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Luke 21:1-4

He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury; and he saw a poor widow put in two copper coins. And he said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had.”

Luke 21:1-4 rsv

I want to think with you today, about giving our all, about the total, unreserved commitment of our lives to the Lord. I’d like to come at that from a little incident in the life of Jesus, and what He had to say about it. Listen. I’m reading from Luke 21, beginning at verse 1:

He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury; and he saw a poor widow put in two copper coins. And he said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had.”

It struck me as I read this that there are two radically different ways of looking at the charitable gifts which people make. There’s the perspective we usually take, and then there’s the Lord’s point of view.

OUR OUTLOOK

Think first about our outlook on these things. Suppose that you are on the staff of a not-for-profit ministry, your favorite charity. It’s a Monday morning and you’ve been opening the mail. That, by the way, is always an exciting part of the day at Words of HOPE because we receive letters from people all around the world who respond to our broadcasts. They tell how their lives have been transformed through believing in Christ. Or they speak of how their faith has been somehow strengthened. Or they report having been encouraged and helped in some practical way, and all of this is a great joy to us.

There is another kind of excitement, also, about opening the mail. It usually includes gifts from those who support our ministry. Sometimes they come from foundations or corporations. Sometimes they represent bequests. Congregations often send us contributions. Most of these letters contain gifts from individuals, and these come in varying amounts. Just imagine now your reactions as you open them, one letter after another.

Here’s one from a young girl in junior high school. She sends $3.00. Here’s another from an elderly couple on social security. They send $5.00. Here’s another. It contains the amount a man sends each month: $20.

Here’s one for $100.00. This person sends in that amount with fair regularity. Someone else who heard for the first time that we are broadcasting in the Hindi language in India got very excited about that ministry and sent us $500.00. In the same mail on that day comes a check from long-time friends of our ministry. They send us – can you imagine this – $20,000!

Now how does a non-profit organization, a Christian ministry like ours respond to these gifts? We’re grateful for all of them. We send letters of appreciation to everyone who sends a gift of any amount. All of them make our hearts glad. But it wouldn’t be honest to say that all of them produce in us the identical reaction. When you go home that night after opening the mail to tell your spouse about the day at work, you probably won’t say a great deal about the $5.00 contributions, but you may still be excited about the five-figure gift that came that day. You may celebrate that around the dinner table, shake your head in wonder over it, savor it.

And, if you’re the person responsible for writing letters of appreciation, you may expend some extra effort in composing your letter to that family. Maybe you’ll call them on the phone. Maybe someone from your organization will visit their home to hand deliver a receipt and express appreciation face to face. After all, this is what the people who work in fund-raising call a “major gift.” It seems fitting to make much of it, to show large-scale thankfulness.

A gift like that is “major” to us or to any ministry, not simply because of its amount but because of what the money can do, because of the new possibilities it opens up, because of the way in which the gospel can be proclaimed and the needs of people met through these funds. So it’s quite understandable that we get excited, that we feel deeply grateful. We want to do something special in the light of it.

I suppose that’s the way we’ll always look at it if all we can see is the size of the gift, the amount, the financial value of what is given. I suppose all of us, if we had been with the disciples as they were watching people put their gifts into the receptacles at the temple treasury, would have reacted as they did. When we saw a wealthy person put in silver shekels or maybe gold coins, we would have been impressed. “That’s a lot of money,” we would exclaim. “A lot of good can be done with that!”

HIS PERSPECTIVE

But there’s another way to look at this. It’s the way Jesus apparently sees it. It’s God’s perspective. Jesus saw those rich people giving that day also. He wasn’t particularly impressed. But as He watched, something did catch His eye. Something moved Him; something quickened His enthusiasm. It was the lady who put her two tiny coins into the treasury. Jesus said to His disciples, “Did you see that? Did you notice what that woman just did?” They had, of course, but it hadn’t seemed unusually significant to them. Rich people – large gifts, poor people – small gifts. It’s what you would expect.

“What do You mean, Lord?” Jesus seemed to have a different idea about which gifts were large and which were small. He said something very hard to understand, “Truly I tell you.” This was His “verily” again, attesting a truth of special weight (some word from God). “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.” Did you get that? He didn’t simply say, “She did a beautiful thing.” He didn’t say, “Her gift was as significant as all those others.” He said, “She gave more than all those rich people put together.” That’s a different perspective, isn’t it? That’s different arithmetic, new mathematics. What in the world can He mean by it? Now Jesus goes on to explain, “For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had.” Jesus is obviously not focussing on the money value of the gift. Hers, by that standard, was distinctly trivial. There’s another dimension here. It’s the proportion she gave of what she had. It’s what she had left after she made her gift. That gave added value to the contribution. Somehow, that made it weighty and rich.

One of the reasons why Jesus had a different perspective was that He knew the circumstances out of which each had given. And when we know more, we sometimes see things differently, too. What if I told you when you were opening the mail that that $3.00 gift from a young junior high school girl represented what she had saved up out of her allowance and her babysitting duties? What if I told you that that $5.00 from the elderly couple represented for them a real stretch, and came with a beautiful letter pledging their prayer? What if I told you that the $20 monthly contribution was from a man who was giving to our ministry the money he used to spend on cigarettes? Here’s something about motivation, something about sacrifice, that begins to color our estimation of the gift. If we knew those things about gifts that seem financially small, we might begin to see them as impressively large. We might go home and talk about them, too!

But however we see it, what brings joy to God’s heart is the meaning of the gift to the person who gives it, the kind of large-heartedness it represents, the way in which it expresses a living faith. This woman gave everything she had. For her it was sacrifice of the largest order. It meant launching out to trust in God.

She was like that woman whom the prophet Elijah once asked for food. Remember that. She had a little meal left in a desperate time of famine. She was ready to cook up the meager portion she had so that she and her son could have one last meal before they died. That was all she possessed. But at the request of this man of God, she made some bread for him first and then found that she had enough to see her through all the days of famine. But before she ever made that happy discovery, she had to venture with the last she had (see 1 Kings 17:8-16). Those are the offerings, apparently, that have weight. In God’s eyes, they are giant sums, princely gifts.

THE MESSAGE FOR US

Now what, do you suppose, is the Lord saying to us through this? Most of us, I would imagine, are more like the other givers than we’re like this woman. We may not consider ourselves rich, but what we give away doesn’t usually represent our total resources, does it? Even if we give a tithe or twice a tithe, it doesn’t begin to approach her sacrifice. We usually give out of our abundance. That is, we give fairly large contributions, but we usually have a good deal left over. We don’t have to deny ourselves almost everything because of what we’ve given away. We give out of what we call our “discretionary income,” the part we don’t absolutely have to keep in order to survive. This idea of giving away everything and then trusting God to take care of us may be a beautiful thought, but most of us would view it as highly impractical. What, for example, would we do for an encore? You can only give away everything once. Then what?

I don’t think Jesus was recommending that everyone should do that. He didn’t say so. He was simply recognizing something quite remarkable and celebrating it. And what was truly noteworthy was not the monetary size of the gift, of course, not even the fact that it left her with no money at all. What rejoiced the heart of Jesus was her total self abandonment. To God, to His kingdom, to His service, she gave her all.

In that way, it seems to me, she is a model for us. The rich young ruler was called to sell all that he had and give it to the poor, and then come and follow Jesus. But not everyone called to discipleship was given that charge. Some who followed Jesus remained people of means. And not all are called to make such a gift of what they have that there is nothing left. But whole-heartedness is for us all.

Have you thought about God’s first great command and how it calls for our total being? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and all your mind” (Mark 12:29). The people of God were to recognize that He had claimed them in love as His own people. Believers in the new covenant are also not their own. They have been bought with a price. Body and soul, in life and in death, they belong to their faithful Savior Jesus Christ. So each of the responses they are called to make, though in one sense partial, is meant to express the whole. We keep one day holy, for example, so that in all our days we may honor God. We bring a tithe to Him, the first fruits of what we receive, as a token that everything we have is His. We set apart moments for praise each day so that every other part of life may celebrate God’s grace.

It’s possible then to give ourselves with our gifts, to hold back nothing even as we render up a portion. Isn’t that what God looks for, that even as we give a part of our resources to the Lord and His service, we loosen our grasp on all? We present everything we are and have to God as available to Him for His service. We stand ready to use anything, everything, as He may call us, as He may lead us. That’s what the Lord is looking for from you and me, not only in one supreme moment of sacrifice, but in the worship and self-offering we bring again and again.

And why should people give themselves that way? The great motive for Christians is always the heart of the gospel. Listen as the apostle Paul sounds that note, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). In this matter of giving one’s all, God has shown us the way. He didn’t hold anything back. He gave us His dearest and best. And Jesus, when He came, didn’t spare Himself. He emptied Himself. He became poor even to a death of agony, shame and forsakenness, for our sakes, all to make us rich. It’s when we grasp that, it’s when we realize the wonder of His love for us that we loosen our grip on all that we have. Then we say, not occasionally, but day after day, “Here, Lord, I give myself away, ’tis all that I can do.”

Prayer: Lord, in response to Your love for us, may we be wholehearted people. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.