Giving out of poverty
Today I read Luke 21:1-4.
(I’ve begun to read small, small portions of Bible each day, because I’ve been taught that you should read His Word slowly, with heart and mind open, and really savour every part.)
Here’s the passage:
1As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3“I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Now, just an aside: I think it’s totally fine for people to be rich. God’s intention for the church is that it is a unification of diversity and differences in race, age, maturity, gifts and experiences… and wealth, also.
Back to poverty. The story is to highlight sacrificial giving that honours God two-fold: one, it demonstrates belief that God is worthy of everything; and two, it shows faith that God provides everything.
That is the first level. To me, the story resonated on another level too. The words that stood out were these:
“All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty…”
For the last few months I have been marching around and trampling everything in my path, getting frustrated that things weren’t working out on the level I believed they would. I was not pleased with myself and I was definitely not pleased with God – and that’s dangerous ground.
I am surrounded by people who are gifted and Christ-like, which found me wanting to grow into that also – a desire that was very right and very good. The problem was that I created a box, and my God doesn’t fit boxes. What frustrated me was expecting my spiritual life to follow along the prescribed path I had drawn out – ‘this is when I will pray loads and get this gift, this is when God will reveal something amazing about my future, this is when I will mature and become all-wise….’. It looks dumb now to both you and me, but it was very easy to slip from having an honest hunger for Jesus to a craving for what He gives.
As a result I found myself getting angry, then starting to despair, really despair: I had no faith, I had no hope. I didn’t believe God was for me, I didn’t believe God ‘gave to those who asked’ and I couldn’t walk away because (out of His grace) I knew Jesus to be the only way – that no other life is worth living.
Over the past few weeks God has been merciful and kind in showing me how, in my ignorance and impatience, I had set up my own trap and walked into it.
He let me know that He wants me to grow, He wants to give me gifts, He wants to take me on adventures and make me a blessing, just as I desired with all my heart. But He reminded me that He is in charge; He is the God of my destiny, and I had taken hold of my life and tried in vain to drive it in the direction I wanted it to go. The consequences being 6 months lost to selfishness and, and foul, wicked actions, thoughts and behaviour that was spiteful towards Him: the One who only loves me.
And so, I find myself in a position where I’m not the person I want to be, I don’t have the faith I want to have, and I’ve become all too aware of my failures, my sin, my faithlessness, and my self-centredness.
It’s a place of true spiritual poverty.
God showed me that a lot of the reasons for why I am in this place of poverty is down to my recent bad choices. But He also told me there’s no excuse not to give from this poverty. Even if what I give is small and pathetic compared to those around me with more faith, more wisdom, more gifts, more love, more Jesus, this is my act of obedience to Him and the place where He will work great things in me from.
Maybe at the end of my life, I can say this:
6I [have been] poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2 TIMOTHY 4:6-7