Today’s reading: Luke 21-22.
“How much should I give back to God?”
Christians disagree on how much we should give in our offerings. Some promote the Old Testament practice of tithing, giving ten percent of their income. Others insist the New Testament doesn’t set a limit but says we should give out of gratitude, as stewards of all God has given us, and as the Holy Spirit leads. The fact is that on average believers give only a small percentage of their income, around three percent among Southern Baptists. Many give nothing. Yet Jesus was emphatic that the man who stored up everything for himself and gave nothing back to God was a “fool.”
Jesus sat down in the temple to rest after an extended dispute with the scribes and Pharisees. He was sitting beside the collection boxes, and many people were dropping in various amounts of money as they passed by.
As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4
Jesus didn’t hesitate to make a comparison between the widow and the other givers. He found much about her to commend to his disciples and therefore to us.
She gave by faith in God’s mercy. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” (Matthew 10:29). The two small coins she gave added up to one penny, the cost of two sparrows. The woman gave by faith, not trusting in her own resources but trusting in God’s care for her.
She gave greatly in comparison to the wealthy givers. God “estimates money gifts not by what we give, but by what we keep – not by the amount of our contributions, but by their cost in self-denial … The others reserved what they needed or wanted for themselves, and then gave out of their superabundance (perisseuontos). The contrast is emphatic; she ‘out of her deficiency,’ they ‘out of their super-sufficiency.’ ” – Rev. Arthur T. Pierson
She gave for eternity. The rich gave a little of their abundance, like crumbs from a feast, but they spent the greater part on themselves. The widow invested everything she had in God’s economy, investing for an eternal return and reward, and trusting God to meet her present needs.
Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves about our own giving:
- Am I giving with eternity in mind, or keeping for my present use?
- Am I giving with faith that God will provide for my needs, or keeping out of fear of want?
- Am I denying myself in order to give, or giving the crumbs that are left after filling my own needs?
Reading the whole counsel of God reveals many other considerations about giving. We are told to provide for our families, including our extended families. We are told to give out of our means, and not beyond them. We are to give according to our prosperity. Our plenty should supply those who are in need. Perhaps most important of all, we should give willingly and joyfully, not regretfully.
But I do say again, if Christianity were truly in our hearts; if we were what we professed to be; the men of generosity whom we meet with now and hold up as very paragons and patterns would cease to be wonders, for they would be as plentiful as leaves upon the trees. We demand of no man that he should beggar himself; but we do demand of every man who makes a profession that he is a Christian, that he should give his fair proportion, and not be content with giving as much to the cause of God as his own servant. We must have it that the man who is rich must give richly. – Charles Spurgeon
Image, “The Widow’s Mite,” by Tissot