Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” – Luke 21:1-4
Years ago, an opportunity was afforded to me to teach at a very prestigious university. It would mean relocating to a new city, leaving family and friends, and taking a cut in pay. My current job had allowed me to live very well as a single woman, but I didn’t think a drop in salary would be that much of an adjustment. Unknown to me then was how much higher the cost of living was in the city where I moved. It wasn’t long after beginning life there that my finances were a mess. Running out of money well before the end of the month, I changed as much as I could to pull out of this situation. Eating oatmeal for dinner was one of my get-to-the-end-of-the-month strategies, and stopping giving money through the church was another. For the first time in my adult life, I didn’t tithe. It did not improve my situation.
During this time, there was this young graduate student I noticed at church who seemed to eat a lot of peanut butter sandwiches. As we became friends, he told me that he, too, was challenged financially, living off of a graduate school stipend. However, there was a big difference. When he received his check each month, the first thing he did was write another check…his tithe to the church. Then he lived on the rest, frugally, until the next check came. If I hadn’t noticed his simple meals, which brought us into conversation about finances, he would never have commented on his own situation. It was what it was, and he was grateful.
I would one day marry this young man.
This story was not to put him on any sort of pedestal but to consider three spiritual principles at play here.
1) Greed – Growing up, we probably all heard our parents say, “There is a big difference between want and need.” Along with that, need can turn into greed, if we are not careful in managing our heart’s desires. Through that financial downturn, I experienced great clarity. It was a scramble, but I finally got past that season of debt, bounced checks, and not tithing. Tithing is returning back a portion of our income (10% or more) to the Lord, in obedience to Him, for the sake of others in need. God doesn’t need our tithe. I need the tithe. It is a stewardship of what God has given me – obeying Him in tithing, then obeying Him with the rest of my resources follows.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:19-21
Where your treasure is measures where you heart is. Not only that, my husband will say, but you can use your treasure to lead your heart. When you invest your treasure (whether it’s the stock market or to BGR, for example), you are going to pay attention to what’s going on with it. Where we put our treasure is where we tune our hearts. As we remember the heart of God toward those who need Him and toward those with other great needs, the resources He gives us become an extension of His hand of love…as we release them. Somehow, in our obedience (even when our heart is not fully in it), God will change our hearts. Hallelujah!
2) Gratefulness – Our children grew up with VeggieTales. The Madame Blueberry video about thankfulness was one of our favorites. The moral of this cute story was that being greedy can make you grumpy (adult talk: never satisfied). Also, the song goes with the story that “a grateful heart is a happy heart”. There is so much more to life than “the stuff”. Being grateful is a condition of the heart that can be cultivated. There is, after all, so much for which we can be grateful.
3) Generosity of God – God is wholly and perfectly generous toward us. He even challenges us to test His generosity (Malachi 3:10). We have sure found Him faithful. There may be long and difficult times of financial leanness in life. However, as we let go of a tight-fisted control of our money and what we want to do with it, God moves. Not always in ways we may “want” (again, it’s a letting go of control), but in ways that will truly satisfy, changing our hearts to be more like that of Jesus’ heart.
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue. – 2 Peter 1:2-3