By Pardon Mwansa, Associate Director, General Conference Stewardship
Summary: What is the measure of the great gift in the eyes of God? The gift should not be measured by the amount, but by the sacrifice involved in the giving. Scriptures says for God so loved the world that He gave His only son.
At a camp meeting in Zambia, a prominent leader with good intentions announced that there was a financial need for a special project. He gave the details of this worthy cause and then said, As the Spirit moves you, come up to the front and publicly announce your offering to the Lord for this special project. There were people of varied financial situations and means in the audience; some with surplus wealth, some with moderate incomes, some with hardly anything.
A farmer, who owned a lot of cattle and in the business of selling animals to the butchers and milk to the dairies, walked up to the front in great majesty and announced that he would give two cows to this project. Two cows were equivalent to about US$1000! A loud Amen followed the farmer’s announcement. Of course, he then asked his wife to stand and be acknowledged. Next, another farmer stood up, walked to the front with gusto and determination. He, rather loudly, announced his gift of four cows. This time the Amens were even louder than the first time and they were accompanied by an enthusiastic applause. A third farmer stood up and walked to the front. Not wanting to be outdone, he pledged six cows. This time the cheering almost brought the roof down. The pledging and cheering continued until all the wealthy people in the audience had contributed great amounts towards the special project.
Towards the end, an ordinary man, without extraordinary airs, humbly walked to the front and pledged items equivalent to US$ 10.00. The only responses that came were from the little children sitting in the front pews. (They had no concept of the value of money. They were by now conditioned to say Amen and clap when a pledge was made.) The smaller the amount, the quieter the Amens; the higher the amount the louder the Amens. The size of the gift does not matter in the eyes of the Lord. What matters is the sacrifice involved in the gift.
What Jesus sees
Imagine Jesus Christ in the temple. The people are invited to bring their offerings. Jesus is seated at a vantage point. Not only can He see the amount each person was giving, but He can also see his or her heart. A rich man stands up with a moneybag filled with coins of gold and silver and walks with his head held high. Another has his servant carry his bag to draw attention to his wealth. Jesus sees the bags of gold and silver. He sees their hearts--some with good intention, some with selfish motive, some with an agenda. Then a poor widow stands up, copper coins squeezed tightly in her fist. People look at her wondering why she’s walking up to the front without an offering. But Jesus sees what is in her clenched hand. Jesus sees her heart of worship. The copper coins plunk on top of the heavy gold. There is silence. There is a moment of heavy silence before Jesus speaks. He begins, I tell you the truth. Every time Christ Jesus says the words I tell you the truth, it’s a sure sign that something very important is to be said. Jesus then draws closer to the widow and points at her. Now the poor woman is embarrassed and prays for the earth to open up and swallow her. Jesus says Look at this woman. Of course, everyone looks. And then Jesus says, This poor widow that you see right here has put in more than all the others. There are looks of confusion and anger.
There is a low murmuring amongst the worshipers. Then Jesus points to the rich and says All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth but she out of her poverty putting all she had to live on (verse 4). What Jesus is saying is, All of you are rich. You have plenty in your homes, you have plenty in your bank accounts, you have your animals. But this woman who is not just a widow but also poor has nothing. She did not have a selection from which to choose. She has no money in the bank, she has no assets, she has no animals. She brought what she had to live on--two copper coins she had to meet her daily needs.
In preparing to come to the temple to worship, the woman must have asked herself, What will I give to the Lord? I have nothing. Moved by the Holy Spirit, moved by the power of Jesus she says, My entire life is under You God. You take care of me. I will give you that which I have. All I have to live on is two copper coins. I will bring them to you. She picks the two copper coins, leaving her home void of anything valuable. She knows that her decision means that when she returns home, there will be nothing waiting for her. There will be no money. There will be no food. She knows that this decision to give Jehovah all she had meant that she will return home to kneel and say to the God of heaven My Jehovah I seek of thee and ask of thee to take care of me. Scripture says that out of her poverty she gave all she had to live on.
What really counts
The lesson here is clear. I often wonder about itemized lists of large donations and extravagant gifts printed in church publications and other public announcements. What is the measure of the great gift in the eyes of God? The gift should not be measured by the amount, but by the sacrifice involved in the giving. Scriptures says for God so loved the world that He gave His only son. If God had a million sons from which to give, it would have been a different understanding of love. We would have said After all, God gave out of the many sons He had. But God had only one Son!
God may not ask all of us to bring to him all that we have to live on. But when the Holy Spirit moves upon our hearts, when the understanding is truly clear that all our living is dependent on what comes from God, when our faith is answered in God as our supplier of all our needs, when our minds are enlightened with a global comprehension of the demands of God’s service, when our hearts have been moved from the desires of the things on this earth to the love of things in heaven--then our gifts to God will not be measured by the amounts. Our gifts to God but will be measured by such deep levels of sacrifice as only the Holy Spirit can tell us to do.
A missionary had been witnessing faithfully to a certain individual. Following their conversation one day, the unconverted man placed a small statue and a silver coin on the table before him. Then he took two slips of paper and wrote something on each. Putting one beside the image and the other with the money, he turned to the Christian worker and said, Please read this. On the note by the idol were written the words Heathen god. The sheet next to the coin bore the inscription Christian god. From what that needy soul had observed in the lives of the merchants from so-called Christian nations, he concluded that money was the object of their devotion!
How can you apply this into your own life? Every time you are about to go to church or when you get your paycheck, you sit down and ask yourself the question, What could the Holy Spirit ask me to give to God? And when you have ascertained what the Spirit of the Lord has impressed upon your heart to give to God, verify it by asking yourself What would Jesus say about my level of sacrifice? Sacrifice is a relative term nobody can define what is sacrifice and what isn’t sacrifice. What does the balance of your bank account mean when you contemplate on what to give to the Lord as appreciation for what the Lord has done for you? Are you giving to God an offering that represents your sacrifice? Pray for judgment to determine what a great gift is in your life. Ask of God What shall I give to You? Bring unto God what the Spirit impresses upon your mind.