Luke 12:13-21; 21:1-4
Sean Wegener, pastor
First Baptist Church, Summerville
Americans are far too impressed with big numbers. We judge generosity by stacks of dollars. If a company gives a million dollars to charity, our mouth drops; we think that company is good, gracious, and caring. If a business donates a nickel of every sale, we flock to buy their product, thinking both ourselves and the business have been charitable. I can have my cake and feel generous too. Yet giving to be seen, to promote, and to feel good are not biblical models of generosity.
The Gospel story of the Widow’s mite provides a plumb line to our warped ideals of philanthropy. In Luke’s Gospel, the rich and the Widow are involved in the exact same act. However, God speaks highly of the Widow only. She is commended because she discovered the concept of God’s generosity.
God’s generosity is not about what is given but what is withheld. Whenever a person withholds the lion’s share of their wealth, they have missed the character of God. When God gives, He withholds nothing that will better the recipient. We are to understand God’s commendation of the Widow through the lens of Jesus’s ministry. Jesus withheld nothing, when He gave Himself on the cross. God the Father withheld nothing, when He sent His Son. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:32)? The generosity of God showed in sending his Son, we reflect in our open hand.
Trusting God’s Provision
Notice that when the rich gave to the temple, Jesus did not mock or berate them. Their giving was valid. Much like us, they gave out of abundance. The Widow’s mite, however, was mightier than the abundance of the rich. Anyone can give out of abundance. Giving comes easy after every need and want has been met. Everyone is comfortable giving from excess; few are comfortable giving out of self-denial.
When the Widow gave, she withheld nothing. She threw herself at the mercy of the Temple’s provisions. The Temple was under orders from God to care for orphans and widows. They were to provide for the needs of the Widow. By giving all she had, she trusted in the provisions of God
Give up counting the dollar signs. Even a greedy person can be moved to give lavishly, if it means he will gain more in the end. A prideful person may give abundantly to win everyone’s favor. Even envy motivates people to out give one another.
An occasional stack of generosity does not outweigh the sin filled heart. The heart and not the wallet prove whether our giving is faithful. Therefore, a heart which has been changed by the lavish gift of Christ gives not out of its abundance but out of its love.
Maturing Toward Generosity.
When we deny ourselves nothing in terms of pleasure, vacations, or food, we are leaving off an important aspect of giving. The World tells us to spend the lion’s share of our money on ourselves. Take the vacation, eat at your favorite restaurant again, and buy the coffee that donates to some charitable cause. But Christians do not take their cues from the giving of the world.
Randy Alcorn summarizes the concept of generosity well. “When we’re true servants, it isn’t about us. We’re like the ox grinding out the corn. We don’t own the corn, and we don’t get credit for growing it. We just do our job and get to eat some of it, and we’re grateful for that…. Slaves think about their Master’s reputation, not their own.”
How we give reflects God’s reputation, his name. When the people of God give, they declare just how gracious God has been to them. Our giving ought to cause us to deny rather than indulge ourselves. Jesus says the rich give out of their abundance. They give as a matter of self-indulgence.
Does this mean their money is no good? Certainly not. But their giving has no eternal weight to it. When our giving causes us to set aside self-advancement, pleasures, and desires, then we have begun to understand God’s heart and reflect his name.
The Father gave the Son. Jesus gave His life. The Holy Spirit gives dead bones new life. God gives not because He has an abundance (and He certainly does) but out of love (John 3:16). God gave His one and only Son. The Son denied Himself and picked up His cross.
True generosity flows from self-denial. Only when we reflect God’s sacrificial love do we begin to understand the heart of our Lord is a generous one. May our heart be like His.