The Gift of Giving

The Gift of Giving
Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva
September 13, 2008

Once in a while, we encounter stories that stay with us. They haunt us in our hurried moments and visit us in our moments of contemplation.  Such to me is the story of the widow and her two pennies.

Her short but powerful account is written in Luke 21:1-4, and this is how the Contemporary English Version Bible put it: “Jesus looked up and saw some rich people tossing their gifts into the offering box. He also saw a poor widow putting in two pennies. And he said, "I tell you that this poor woman has put in more than all the others. Everyone else gave what they didn't need. But she is very poor and gave everything she had."

The widow’s story points to us three lessons in giving that we must all seriously take to heart.

First, Jesus sees us as we give.  Notice how Jesus noticed people as they gave. Since the scripture is given to us for our instruction, I would like to surmise that the social distinction between the rich and the poor was intentionally made by Jesus to elucidate to us the point that giving is for all. The rich does not out-give the poor because he can give much more.  In the same manner, poverty is not a reason for anyone to not become a giver.

Giving is a universal act of kindness.  At some point in our lives, we too have become recipients of someone else’s generosity and help.  In fact, we are all recipients of God’s amazing love. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Therefore, we must also never turn anyone away when they turn to us for help ~ especially when we have the ability to bless them.

Second, Jesus sees how we give.   Notice how Jesus paid attention to the people as they tossed their gifts into the offering box.  This attests to the fact that the gift speaks both of the giver and the recipient. It can be gleaned from the story how Jesus sought after the quality of the giver’s heart and not the quantity of the giver’s offering.

“It’s the thought that counts,” we often hear this said when we think what was given is beneath the character of either the giver or the recipient.  In our human relations with other people, this may be acceptable given our base propensities. But not when it comes to our giving unto the Lord.  Like the widow in our story, we must not give unto God out of our excesses. Rather, we must give unto Him that which He truly deserves … our best and finest … even our all … even when it costs us everything.

Third, Jesus sees what is left of us as we give.  Notice how Jesus paid attention to what was left of the giver not just to what was put in the offering box.  This depiction of the Lord’s keen mindfulness, particularly concerning that of what was left of the giver, is overly comforting. It means that, more than anything else, the Lord ultimately cares for the welfare of the giver after she gave her all.

I was told of the true story of one woman who lived most of her life doing laundry for others. Day in and day out, she washed people’s clothes to eke out a decent living.  On Sundays, however, she honored the Sabbath and worshipped her Lord.  She lived a decent life all right, albeit in obscurity.

Her one-time act of giving shocked the world, however, when she donated the hard-saved pennies she earned hand-washing clothes at $10-a-bundle.  She donated her life’s savings of $150,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi to “help somebody’s child go to college.”  Her selfless act of giving garnered national headlines, inspired awe, and earned her more than 300 awards, including a USA presidential citation.

Asked how she was able to let go of such sum of money, she reportedly simply replied: “I have my bed. I have my table. I have my Bible. I have all I need.”

The value of our gift cannot be measured by the known standard of this world.  The Lord Jesus Himself showed us, when we give out of our own need, He sees. He knows. He honors. He rewards. For no one can out-give God.

Yes. We are able to genuinely give because we have God demonstrated it to us. He was the first to give His Best for us.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

This is the same God who is able to give us everything we need through Christ, His Son.  “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

Next time we are presented the opportunity to be a giver, may we never fail to remember that we are all but recipients as well.