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
True sacrifice is sometime determined by the context in which one makes that sacrifice. Jesus does an interesting thing here. He points out that the widow gave more than all the rest of those who were giving at the offering box. Her circumstances are very different than the rich people and it is in that context that Jesus affirms that her gift is more substantial than those who actually give more.
True sacrifice is about faithfulness. Regardless of how painful this gift would be on her own circumstances this widow, who seems to have nothing left to support herself, gives of her final resources to the Lord. But she was faithful, not just because it was required by the Law but she has a heart to honor the Lord. Clearly, the amount that is given is not really the issue here. What truly matters is her faith expressing her faithfulness to the Lord through her offering. We do not always see the giving of our resources / offerings as an indication of faithfulness but here Jesus commends her for her small but very abundant gift.
True sacrifice is not about comparing our sacrifice to others. Jesus does not condemn certain ones for being rich. He acknowledges they give out of their abundance and does not condemn them for it. We spend much of our life comparing our activity to others which is rarely helpful. We often measure our contribution to God’s kingdom work to those who seem to make a much larger contribution than we do. We often measure our faithfulness by those who make a different kind of faith-step than we are able to make. But here the comparison works in reverse. I am pretty sure that if I was in the widow’s shoes I would find a way to say that there is no way to give because of my personal need. Her sacrifice is extraordinary. That being said, I believe that the rich may be just as faithful. The only difference is that they are giving out of their abundance and she is giving out of her poverty. While this would make no sense to us, Jesus recognizes her faith through her giving.
True sacrifice is a heart issue. We do not live in a vacuum or fairy tale land. Our thinking is often trapped in the mindset that bigger is better; more is more spiritual; larger is best. We have our own way of measuring success or spirituality and we are often bated into the old adage of “buildings, bodies and bucks”. We need to keep on reminding ourselves that God’s ways are not our ways and we live in a backwards, upside down world. We have to keep learning to keep our minds and hearts focused on things above and not on the things of this world. It is hard but doable.
True sacrifice is best recognized by Christ not others. We often have the conviction that giving is a personal and private matter and no one ought to know what anyone else gives. Apparently, Jesus did not get that memo when he pointed out the gift of the widow. There is little room in a spiritually mature person for self- promotion that has the attitude of “look what I just did.” That being said, while faithfulness is personal it is also public. The problem with the “personal and private” theology is twofold: first we often use the slogan that my giving is “personal and private” to protect ourselves from the fear others judging us. When my life is “personal and private” I insolate myself from speaking into my life or from being encouraged by how God’s grace is transforming me. Many times, however, people are very generous and they do not want the attention to be on them but meeting the needs of others. That is reasonable
True sacrifice is about my life honoring Christ not impressing others. We waste so much time comparing and competing (even if it is in the invisible corners of our heart) with others that it can be a struggle to find freedom in just serving Jesus and others. I hope that as you step into the New Year that you will find great freedom in authentic personal sacrifice that honors Jesus, regardless if you are rich or poor.