Saturday, January 23, 2016

One-Penny Offerings

            “But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. 
            Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.’”  (Mark 12:42-44)           

            Do you ever feel like your contribution to the Kingdom doesn’t really make a splash?  Because it is so small and unflashy, compared to others?  Do you ever feel like your spiritual accomplishments might seem laughable and pitiful?  Like you just don’t measure up? 
            I know I do. 

            When discouragement gets the best of me, I feel like I am the most pitiful of all believers.  I try and try to “live Christ” in so many ways, but no one really sees it.  They seem so minor compared to what others give. 

            I make it a point to show interest in people and to reach out and give them a listening ear when they need it because I know how it hurts to feel overlooked.  I helped a man pick up the blueberries he dropped all over the floor of the store.  I bought a chicken for the man who waited in line with just a hot, ready-to-go, cooked chicken, but who realized his store card expired when he got to the front of the line.  I feed and love my family every day and try to raise wise, godly, thoughtful children.  I do my best to do my best as a homemaker and neighbor because I know that this is where God has me at this season in my life.  I write things that I hope will draw others to God’s love, truth, and healing, and I keep writing despite the fact that no one that I know wants to read it.  I struggle daily to accept certain discouragements with grace, to remain thankful and content despite a broken heart, to let earthly trials become spiritual lessons, to live for eternity, and to let God be my all when others let me down. 
            These contributions don’t really make any big difference.  They don’t really amount to anything or change lives and hearts like I wish it did.  No one really sees them or would consider them noteworthy.  And others – fellow church-goers who serve at church, sing in the choir, or have some sort of niche that is their ministry - would probably snicker if I told them about these “contributions” to the Kingdom.  They would pat my head and say, “Well, now.  Isn’t that cute?  But why don’t you run along and the leave the Kingdom work up to those of us who can really make a difference?” 
            This widow’s offering didn’t measure up to what others gave.  It wasn’t going to make any big difference to the church, by earthly calculations.  Compared to the abundance that others gave, hers would be considered pitiful.  No one even noticed her offering, her sacrifice. 
            But Jesus did!
            And when He did, He didn’t see two tiny coins, barely worth a penny.  He saw a great sacrifice, a contribution greater than what anyone else gave.  Because she gave her all.  She didn’t have much to give but she gave what she had.  And while it might have been almost nothing by earthly standards and compared to what others gave, it was a huge contribution on Heaven’s scales and it would make a huge difference by eternal standards.  Even if no one else saw or noticed her tiny offering, Jesus saw it, blessed it, and was incredibly touched by it.  It mattered greatly to Him!
            I used to wonder why Jesus didn’t take the two coins and give them back to the poor widow who obviously needed them.  Why didn’t He bless her sacrifice by letting her keep what little she had?  Why didn’t He place His hands on her and pray for abundance to rain down on that needy widow?  As a reward for her faithfulness? 
            I believe (and let me speculate here) it’s because He knew that her sacrifice, her faithfulness, would amount to great spiritual rewards in eternity for her.  Even if it didn’t make a difference on earth or “earn” her any special abundance on earth.  The greater the sacrifice and faithfulness, the greater the spiritual rewards.  And He wanted her to be blessed with lasting eternal rewards more than temporary financial security.  She knew where her treasures were.  She gave all she had because she knew that faithfulness and storing treasures in Heaven was far more important than storing up treasures on earth. 
            Now compare this to the religious elite in Mark 12:28-40.  Jesus says that they have flowing robes, sit in the important seats and places of honor, they have lots of houses (taken from widows), and pray long, showy prayers.  They obviously have status, power, and wealth.  They seem spiritual, important, and wise, like they have it all together spiritually.  If people look at their accomplishments and their standing in the spiritual community, they would think, These are the people to be like, to emulate.  A poor widow’s two coins are laughable compared to the contributions of these great religious giants! 
            Yet Jesus says that those “teachers of the law” – those religious giants who seemed so godly and accomplished – would be punished severely!  Whereas, the widow who wasn’t noticed and didn’t matter to others was noticed by Jesus.  And blessed!  Some of the greatest successes in the world’s eyes are actually great failures in God’s eyes.  And some of the greatest failures in the world’s eyes are actually great successes in God’s eyes.  I guess the key is, Whose eyes are we looking through?  By whose standards are we judging “success”?
            It doesn’t matter if we don’t have a lot to give or if others notice or if others give more.  It doesn’t matter if our skills don’t match up and if we can’t accomplish the great things that others can.  What matters is not if we stand in a position of great influence, power, and success in front of others but if we stand in humility before the Lord!  What matters is not what others see but what the Lord sees!  What matters is not what’s in our wallets but what’s in our hearts!  What matters is not what we gain but what we give!  If we are faithful to give all we have!  To give our all for the Lord! 
            So many times I feel like I have nothing of value to offer God, to contribute to the Kingdom.  I’m just a mom, doing my best to be a mom, to love my family and to raise my children up in the Lord, and to be a good neighbor who loves people with Christ’s love so that they might want to know Him, too.  I may not have anything to contribute that would impress others, but I do have a lot of heart.  And I think that’s not such a bad thing.  Because when all we have left to give to God is our heart, we offer that.  And that’s what God really wants anyway.  Our faithful heart! 
            If you only have a penny to offer, then offer it to the Lord with your whole heart.  A loving smile for a stranger.  A listening ear for those who hurt.  A kind word to someone who needs encouragement.  A meal for the hungry.  Making someone else feel like they are important.  Helping the elderly lady carry her bags.  Caring for the sick.  Faithfully doing the unglamorous daily jobs that no one else notices or appreciates.  These are one-penny offerings that matter.  Because Jesus notices and He is honored by our faithfulness to give whatever we have!  For His Kingdom and His glory! 

            “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’”  (Matthew 25:34-36)   

            “ . . . whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  (1 Corinthians 10:31)

             “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”  (Psalm 51:17) 

            “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” (Matthew 12:7)

             “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in a steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  (Matthew 6:19-21) 

             “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”  (Colossians 3:23)