Lenten Day 20: Let’s Talk Money.

Today’s Lectio Divina: Luke 21: 1-4 (MsgB)

Just then He (Jesus) looked up and saw the rich people dropping offerings in the collection plate. Then He saw a poor widow put in two pennies. He said, “The plain truth is that this widow has given by far the largest offering today. All these others made offerings that they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all!”

I find it quite interesting that this nice story about the poor little widow who drops her two pennies in the Temple offering appears in Luke’s gospel immediately following the story about how crooked and screwed-up the religious leaders of Jesus’ day are (see Luke 20: 41-47).

So many times I hear people complain about tithing or giving any of their hard-earned money to God because of the great hypocrisy they see in the contemporary church. While I concur that there is, without a doubt, a bunch of hypocritical stuff in the American church today, I’m intrigued that from Jesus’ perspective, giving to God was still the best thing to do, even when the people representing Him are a bunch of crooks!

Take this poor widow, for example.

These two pennies she drops in the offering plate at the Temple probably represents at least half of her income, if not more. Those pennies would probably have a better chance of being used productively if she’d keep them in her own pocket. The current leadership of the Temple, if everything Jesus says about them is true, will end up using this poor widow’s money for a new bedroom suite in the parsonage, ignoring the needs of the poor and needy ones in the community.

Yet despite this problem going on in the Temple, Jesus still approves of the offerings being given there, seeing this poor widow’s offering as a holy sacrifice; God-business between a nearly penniless little old lady and the omnipotent, omniscient God of the Universe.

Too bad more of us can’t see our tithes and offerings that way, don’t you think? I mean, here I am a pastor, overseeing a small church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. With the recent economic downturn, the loss of jobs, and the fact that our congregation has a lot of blue-collar workers; our giving has taken a real nose dive this last couple of years. Money is tight. People are holding onto it carefully, and I don’t blame them at all. As I talk with other pastors in other churches, their situation is much the same. But while you’d think I’d be out there screaming for folks to cough up more money to our church, actually I’m thinking that’s not the right approach at all.

You know what folks? In truth, if you or I are giving to the church because we believe we’re supposed to be giving money to a church, I think it’d be better off for us to just keep our money!

Now why would I make a crazy statement like that, you ask?

Because, in Jesus’ eyes, you and I are supposed to be giving our tithes and offerings to GOD, not the church!

Let me be honest here.

In all truth, my church needs God more than it needs money. As I read the Bible, I sense that if my church has God and His Kingdom presence, we’ll have enough resources to do what we’re called to do. So, if you and I are giving money so that our church can survive, we’re giving money for the wrong reason! If we’re giving money so that we can have a bigger write-off on our personal taxes, we’re giving for the wrong reason! If we’re giving money to the church so that we can feel a burden being lifted off our backs, or so that the priest or pastor will stop bugging us, we’re giving for the wrong reason!

Folks, you and I need to stop giving money to the church. It’s GOD who is asking for our money. And just in case you missed it earlier in Jesus’ teachings about the Kingdom, God is asking us for everything else as well! Our money. Our work. Our families. Our possessions. Our homes. Our lives. You name it. He wants access to it!

Jesus came to have it all.

And somehow, I think this little old widow best understands that her humble gift to God is just that. If she gives her two pennies, she knows that this is just a beginning in giving her entire life over to Yahweh, her God, her provider, her all in all.

As Jesus states, it’s those who give out of their wealth, offering a pittance of their net worth, who are really only cheating themselves. It’s God, who gives us every penny we have, every ounce of life we have in our body, every moment we have on planet earth; who asks us to give it all back to Him in response to His magnificent, unending love.

So, how about we start a new movement where people give their all in all to God. Oh sure, the church we call home can be, and should be, the primary place we make our generous tithes and offerings to God. But from now on, let’s start giving to God like this poor little widow.

Giving our all in all to the One who has given His all in all for us!

My prayer: Lord, I realize that the subject of giving money to God is one that brings fear to many. May I be more and more like the poor widow here who realizes that You are the ultimate source of all resources and when I give generously to You, I can never out-give Your generous heart of provision for me. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: Where have I confused giving to the church or other charities as a replacement for giving generously to God? How do I need to re-think my giving so that I no longer see myself as the owner of my resources but a steward of blessings given to me first and foremost by God? As a good steward of His blessings, how can I give back generously my all and all in response to God’s unending, unrelenting love?

So, what are you experiencing today as we are journeying through this Lenten Adventure?

Over a 48-day period (from Ash Wednesday through the Monday after Easter), you and I will be taking a deeper look at the stories surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus (especially the last week known as Holy Week) as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Our Lenten Journey home page for ease of use. 

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next Lenten session…

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