Formations lesson for October 26: Giving That Should Hurt
October 3 2003 by John Norman Jr. , Luke 21:1-4

Formations lesson for October 26: Giving That Should Hurt | Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

Formations lesson for October 26: Giving That Should Hurt

By John Norman Jr. Luke 21:1-4

Let me say at the beginning that I get nervous talking about money in church. I feel uneasy asking people to place their hard-earned cash in the offering plate. Money, and how one spends it, is such a personal thing. Who am I to tell people what they should and should not do with their earnings? So when I preach on stewardship, I like to lighten the mood with humor, and one of the most humorous stories I have heard about giving to the church is the following.

It seems that a $1 bill and a $100 met on the street. Being polite and wanting to catch up with his friend, the $1 bill asked the $100 bill what he had been up to. "Oh," said the $100 bill, "I have been extremely busy. I started a new business last spring, went back to school to further my education in the fall, and just returned home from a vacation trip to Hawaii." Wanting to return the friendly gesture, the $100 bill asked the $1 bill what he had been doing with his time. Said the $1 bill with a disenchanted voice, "The same old thing - church, church, church."

But let's face it, giving money to the church is no laughing matter. In order for churches to operate and carry out the ministry to which they have been called, churchgoers have to give money. However, according to a recent study by the Barna Research Group, "... households that tithe their income to their church - that is, give at least 10 percent of their income to that ministry - has dropped by 62 percent in the past year, from 8 percent in 2001 to just 3 percent of adults during 2002" (www.barna.org). No, giving to the church is not a laughing matter, it is very serious.

The Widow and Her Wealth Luke 21:1-4 In today's text we find Jesus in the Jerusalem temple. As usual, he appears to notice things others do not. As the rich put their gifts into the treasury, a poor widow also placed her gift in as well. Some would simply see this as a time for the temple collection, but Jesus saw it as a moment for a life lesson about what it meant to live in the kingdom of God. The question Jesus addressed appears to be "Who gave the most, the rich people or the poor widow?"

Over the centuries, there have been great discussions concerning the amount of the widow's gift. The small coins ("lepton" in Greek) were the least amount of money circulated at the time. It took 128 lepta to make a "denarius," or the equivalent of one day's wages. In order to understand that amount today, we can imagine a person making $5 an hour and working an 8-hour day. A lepton would equal 1/128 of $40, or approximately 31 cents. The widow's gift would be twice that amount - or rather 62 cents.

It does not sound like a lot does it? But, notice what Jesus had to say - the widow gave more with her minimal gift than all the others with their riches. The importance of giving is not about "what" people contribute, but "how" they contribute. It is more about the mindset of the giver than the amount of the gift. Kingdom stewardship is a change in thinking - a change from the idea that we give God 10 percent of what we have to realizing God allows us to keep 90 percent of what God gives us.

A few years ago, our church began to raise money to build a new fellowship hall. The slogan for the program urged our members to realize, "It is not equal giving but equal sacrifice." The premise was everyone would be asked to sacrifice no matter what the amount given. The important thing was not the amount of the gift donated, but the sacrifice made.

As I mentioned above, I get nervous talking about money in church. What people give is such a personal matter. I do not want to give people the impression I am standing over their shoulders watching how much they donate. But this story about the widow's gift should remind us of one very important thing - Jesus is watching.

10/3/2003 12:00:00 AM by John Norman Jr. , Luke 21:1-4 | with 0 comments
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