Two for You and None for Me
One for you and one for me
play a simple
little game whenever they have a bag of treats to divide among
themselves. They seem to have an instilled value of fairness.
Sometimes I wonder if this is partially a defense mechanism to make
sure that they themselves receive a full share of the prize. The game
is simple. One child is designated the benevolent dictator who is
assigned the task of distributing the treats in equal proportion. To
ensure fairness, they usually vocalize their deeds.
for you and one for
for you and two for
for you and three
you imagine the
shocked look on the other child's face if he/she heard, “Two for
you and none for me.” That is essentially what the widow did the
day she walked into the Temple to give her contribution to God. She
did not withhold anything. She did not insist upon receiving an equal
portion. She did not complain about receiving less then her fair
share. She did not ask a priest if her tax was based upon her Gross
Adjusted Income or Net Adjusted Income. She gave everything that she
had to God.
topic of money is not
a very popular one in the church. I once conducted a survey of new
residents to the community. Shortly after the for sale sign was
removed from the front lawn I would go and visit the house. I would
ask them four questions. One of the questions usually brought up the
subject of money. “In your opinion, why do most people not go to
church.” The most frequent answer was “Because the church is
always asking for money.” While we do not know if he ever asked
people for money, the topic of personal finance was one of Jesus'
most favorite subjects. How a person handles their money revealed
many things about their spiritual life?
people use money to
impress others. This will vary from circle to circle. The size and
features of a yacht will garner the envy of some. The rumble of an
engine will draw looks from the NASCAR crowd. The latest composition
shaft attached to the head of the driver that Tiger uses will make
the golfing crowd jealous. College administrators know that large
donors will seldom write checks for significant contributions unless
a building will bear their name. Few of us will ever have the
opportunity to use our financial resources as leverage to garner the
attention and admiration of others but we still need to be aware of
the possibility. What is the difference between demanding that the
new addition be named in our honor or complaining because we were not
thanked for our annual contribution to the Building Fund. Stewardship
Committees should always send thank you cards to contributors but
sometimes a mistake is made. What difference does it make if we are
thanked or not?
using their money to gain respect from others. They would throw their
money against the copper sides of the collection kettles. When gold
or silver strikes copper it produces a loud ring. Everyone who was in
the Temple courts would turn toward the sound and catch a glimpse of
the generous contributor. Without a receipt or a thank you card, the
opinions of others was all the Pharisees had.
will sometimes use
their money to gain power or influence over others. This is always
very noticeable during a major election. Large sums of money were
given to candidates in hopes of favorable legislation after an
election victory. Pastors know the difficulty of this ministry. While
a person will not intentionally give to sway a pastor's decision or a
session's vote, I have listened to a few colleagues who were very
upset because of the threat of a major contributor.
people give because
they want to support their church or contribute to the ministry of an
organization. These people typically want to know that their money is
being used wisely and is making a difference. This is why some
churches have to rely on special needs donations. Tom gets cold
easily so he will give to the building fund to repair the old boiler.
Mary adores children so she is the first one to write a check for
Vacation Bible School. She also was the one who went out and bought
the DVD player that suddenly appeared in the CE Resource room. Fred
believes that the youth are the future of the church so he provides
scholarships for the annual summer mission trip. Harriet never makes
a pledge to either the operating fund or the building fund but she
has told the pastor to call her if a special request is needed. She
paid for someone's rent last month and a heating bill the previous
month. The pastor is wondering if she would be willing to replace the
old worn out copier.
scenarios are not
that much of an exaggerate from real life. Designated giving is
becoming so popular that the PCUSA has begun to charge a fee on
designated mission giving to fund the administrative overhead. This
may sound outrageous to us but it is common practice with para church
groups. If you support someone who works for Campus Crusade for
Christ, somewhere between 12-17% of your contribution supports the
administrative services of Crusade. You cannot avoid this. This
bothers some people because they do not like a faceless, nameless
administrative hierarchy making decisions that affect their money.
They just do not trust the board to make wise decisions. This
designated mentality is carried over into the local church. Sometimes
people believe they just cannot trust the session to make the right
decision so they withhold their money unless they know exactly how it
will be spent and they completely agree with the rationale for the
the shadows of our
manipulative, self-serving, controlling giving walks the widow. She
approaches the copper kettles used to receive the offering unnoticed.
She is not wearing brightly colored clothing that would attract
attention. She does not have an entourage proceeding her. She walks
up alone and quietly places her two coins into the kettles. The coins
are so small that they hardly make any sound when they drop unto the
other coins. A few men see her but do not see her. She is just one
person among many. Her contribution will not be noticed. What a
contrast to those who wanted everyone one to know.
has given her coins
without making any requests. A brick will not bear her name. The
money may be used by the priests any way they think is necessary.
There are no strings attached.
woman has also given
her coins without asking for a receipt or a thank-you card. She does
not want a fuss made about what she has given. God knows and he is
the only one she cares about.
the widow has
done something quite different from all the other Pharisees. Each one
of them gave a significant portion of their income or estate but this
poor widow, she gave everything she had. The Pharisees had to worry
about the accuracy of their division or multiplication. “One tenth
of what I have is how much?” The widow gave 100%.
needed to remodel the sanctuary. The carpet was worn. The color of
the walls faded. It did not have a handicap accessible entrance. But
how could they afford it? They were a large but older congregation
with many people on fixed incomes. The leadership decided to hire a
fund raiser. At the introductory meeting the fund raiser asked the
leadership team about their goals for the project. Immediately a long
time member of the church spoke, “You have to understand that we
are a church that has a high percentage of older people, mostly
widows on fixed incomes. So we really can't expect to raise too much
fund-raiser asked to
see a list of our major givers. He took the list with him at the
close of the meeting.
next meeting, he told
the board that he had done an analysis of our congregation's giving.
he told us in his report on his analysis of the church's giving
patterns, "that the majority of your top 50 contributors are
'widows on fixed incomes.' Please note that, according to my
calculations, those 'widows on fixed incomes' pay about 60 percent of
this congregation's annual budget. I'd say if you want to improve the
giving in this congregation, you need to talk to those women first,
find out why they give, then try to infect the rest of the
congregation with the faith of these 'widows on fixed incomes.'"
what I have been told
the giving in most congregations is comparable. The widows are
usually more generous with their money. Some may say that they have
fewer expenses than a large growing family but do they? Or do they
have an understanding of what is more important?
never try to understand
another person's finances. Each of us has a different set of
priorities. My family may not spend money on cable TV but we buy
other things. We may live in a nice home but we drive older cars
until they can no longer be repaired. However, we are each called to
offer a portion of our income to God in grateful thanks. In the Old
Testament, the amount was referred as a tithe because it was 1/10 of
families pre-taxable income. Actually, if the average Israelite
followed the letter of the law they gave just over 30% of their
income to the priests to provide them with an income and to care for
the poor. If Saul, David or another king needed money an additional
tax would be levied. Jesus then came along and told parables about
how we handle our finances. They all contain a common theme to our
story this morning. God expects us to use all of our finances for his
glory. Each family must decided what that means for them.
how you give? Do
you donate to impress or to respond in obedience? Do you limit your
contributions to your favorite projects or do you trust the decisions
of the leadership of session? Do you donate to control or manipulate
today's gospel Jesus
used the example of a widow to exemplify how each of us should give.
him or her who has