Last week I posted about the most important question concerning stewardship: Who owns the vineyard? This week I want to share some more thoughts on stewardship from a famous story found in Luke 21. I’ve never had a problem with speaking on the subject of stewardship. I think the best time to speak on the subject of giving and stewardship is when the church is on solid fiscal ground. There is something about being behind in budget and a mounting accounts payable that tends to make stewardship sermons more about immediate pain relief than about the core issues of the heart.
Luke 21 is the story about the widow who placed her last two “mites” into the Temple treasury. Check this out: While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has” (Luke 21:1-4, NLT).
According to the story, Jesus was watching as the rich dropped their offerings into the Temple treasury. The treasury was located in the court of women and consisted of 13 trumpet shaped collections boxes, each bearing an inscription indicating the use of each gift. It was not uncommon for the gifts of the rich to be announced publicly. Jesus observed these generous free will offerings without condemnation or criticism.
That image is placed in contrast to a simple widow who put in two “mites.” Widows in the first century were considered to be the poorest of the poor. They possessed no rights to property and had virtually no prospects to earn income. They were without advocacy or support. They held no status. The widow gave two small coins, called lepta. The two lepta were the economic equivalent of 1 66th of one day’s wage.
Jesus evaluation of her act was straightforward: The widow gave more than the rich because she gave all. Literally, she gave all her bios, her life. While others gave out of their abundance, she gave everything she had. She didn’t save a cushion. She had no promise for more income. And most intriguing of all, Jesus made no attempt to stop her.
So what can we take away from this simple story about the widow’s gift in the Temple?
1. THE SIZE OF THE GIFT IS NOT EVERYTHING
Have you ever noticed how a parent can melt over a picture drawn by their 5 year old? Or how a parent will always cherish the humble gifts given by their kids that were purchased with their own money? Significance cannot be measured by volume. Bigger is not always better. Sometimes it’s just more. Sometimes the smallest of gifts add the most value. Jesus witnessed the offerings from the rich and the poor. But we need to understand that Jesus doesn’t count our offerings. He weighs them.
2. THE POINT OF THE STORY IS NOT GENEROSITY. THE POINT OF THE STORY IS TRUST.
Who really meets the needs of your life? I believe the response that Jesus seeks from the reader is not for us to rush to our banks and empty our accounts. The story calls for us to wrestle with the question, “Who am I trusting for my life?” “Who is the one that I rely on?” The widow gave her last two cents because she trusted God to meet her needs and to be her resource for living.
3. JESUS STILL WATCHES THE TREASURY
Jesus sees what is in your hand and he sees what is in your heart. The heart and the hand are organically linked. So it’s not about the offering in your hand. It’s about what is in your heart.
Some hearts are filled with fear. What if I get sick? What if I get laid off? What if an appliance breaks or my car needs repair? What if the economy tumbles further? Fear works in our hearts to curb faith and trust.
Other hearts are filled with a sense of entitlement. I recently watched an interview with Ken Robinson where he shared some interesting statistics about our planet’s ability to sustain the population. He said that according to research, we presently have about 7 billion people on earth. If everyone on earth lived like those in Rwanda, our world has enough resources to support a population of 15 billion people. But if everyone on earth lived like North Americans, we only have the resources to support a population of 1.5 billion.
There’s a fine line between blessing and entitlement. Like fear, a sense of entitlement can also crowd out our ability to trust God for our daily bread.