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).
When we call the congregation to generosity at Mercy Hill, you will likely hear that we want the congregation to give equal gifts: not equal in amount but equal in sacrifice. The principle that says the sacrifice is to be weighed, not the amount, is found all over the Bible, and it is put on clear display in the actions of the widow in Luke 21. Let’s explore this scene further.
A Different Sacrifice in the Temple
Jesus is in the temple of Jerusalem, scanning the scene of the happenings. He then turned his attention to people putting their gifts into an offering box (i.e. the temple treasury). These gifts were probably freewill offerings that would have been used by the temple administration to fund the activities of temple worship.
The thing about freewill offerings is that they are not commanded. They are made when a person is moved by God because of his goodness, love, and faithfulness to passionately and enthusiastically give out of their possessions. Yet, what Jesus is showing us here is that God measures gifts based not on the numbered amount, but on the amount of sacrifice. The widow gave “all she had to live on” while the rich gave out of their “abundance,” and Jesus states that widow had given more than the rest of them. Certainly, the rich would have plenty left to meet the demands of life and perhaps much more. In terms of sacrifice, the widow’s gift was of much greater generosity for she sacrificed money that she needed just to feed herself.
Now, I want to be clear that it is not the case that everyone needs to give until they are impoverished [in fact, Paul would not advise this (2 Cor. 8:13), but he might have praised God if you did (2 Cor. 8:1-7)], but I do want to point out that this widow probably did not know of Jesus and his salvation. She was probably just a Jewish woman who loved God, and yet, she gave of all that she had in praise of God and support of the continuation of temple worship.
We Know so much More than the Widow
For us on this side of the gospel, something greater than the temple has come (Matt. 12:6)! We are beneficiaries of the good news that this Christmas season talks about: Jesus gave up all the riches of heaven to be clothed in human flesh, to physically walk in our shoes, to empathize with our experience, and to free us from our enslavement to sin. He has reconciled us to God by his death in our place so that we might worship God freely and truly. He removed our spiritual blindness so that we could see that he is the good and faithful king to be worshiped forever.
This brings us to Generous December. Those of us who follow Jesus are profoundly blessed with riches unimaginable. Yet, there are many in our communities, our nation, and our world that have not had the good news of Immanuel, God with us, preached to them so that Jesus can open their eyes to worship him in Spirit and in truth. Like the widow, the faithfulness, goodness, love, and generosity of God displayed in Jesus Christ motivates us to enthusiastically give so that others may hear the good news and come to worship. This is why Mercy Hill gives what we take in from Generous December to international missions, domestic church planting, local campusing, and community missions. We want the joy of the gospel to go forth to those who have not yet heard.
Questions of Generosity
To take a page out of Tim Keller’s book, let me ask you a few questions. Are you planning to write a check to Generous December that will hurt? Does your giving show that you trust that God is the one who will provide for you in your lack? Does the proportion of your sacrifice show that you are so thankful for the joy of salvation, that you are excited about having others all around the world find that same joy?
Is there really anything more in line with the true Christmas spirit than to sacrifice our riches so the world may hear that Jesus came into the world for them?
-Alex Nolette (Equip Associate)