I want to open this article with a heartfelt expression of THANKS to all of you who make our shared ministry possible through your generous and sacrificial gifts of time, talent and financial resources. So many of you serve in creative, dedicated ways and places within our congregation, and I need to tell you that your service makes a huge difference to our staff, to our wider congregation, and to the neighborhood and world that is impacted beyond our doors.
Of course, when it comes to our generosity and giving, it can be tempting to assume that the bigger the gift, the bigger the impact and the more that God is pleased. Jesus taught his disciples an important lesson one day, underscoring just how out of line this view is with Jesus’ Kingdom way of thinking. He and his friends were in the temple, and all sorts of people were placing contributions in the offering box as part of their worship. We learn that “Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on’” (Mark 12:41b-44, NIV).
It’s staggering that Jesus would consider this seemingly insignificant gift to be more than all the others. What kind of math is that? As Simon Tugwell observes in his book Prayer, “she knew that what she was giving was not going to repair the temple roof or buy them a new organ or solve anyone’s problems. The offering counters might very well have thought it was a confounded nuisance to count the small change put in by people like her.” But apparently, Jesus saw things differently…
This month, we’ll be launching a stewardship and generosity sermon series, leading up to the finalization of our 2019 church budget in November. But this series won’t focus solely on financial giving, and (taking a page from Jesus’ playbook) won’t focus solely on the size of our gifts, either. Jesus makes it clear that God looks at our hearts when it comes to generosity, that Paul has it right when he writes, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7, NIV).
I’m convinced that when each of us gives cheerfully, joyfully, and with gratitude that overflows from a growing understanding of God’s extravagant goodness and grace, we’ll find that we have all the time, money and talent we need to fully and faithfully respond to God’s call to us as a congregation. Some gifts may look bigger than others from the outside, but God looks at our hearts and sees when we desire to serve him with all that we are and all that we have. We know from the Gospel stories of bread loaves and fish that God is in the business of multiplying resources into expanded blessings and provisions, so it’s safe for us to conclude that the math will add up, in God’s economy, through God’s power, and because of God’s love for us and for the world around us.