Winston S. Churchill said: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” We think much about gifts and giving during this holiday season. This year we all are probably more aware of the widespread needs in our communities, across this country and throughout the world than usually comes to mind. The heightened traumatic stress, isolated depression and inundating uncertainties imprison our foci on our personal needs, as well as those of family and close friends. These needs are important to address, but there is a freedom Jesus offers from these tensions that plague us.
Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also witnessed a widow put in two copper coins. He judged the smaller gift as more valuable because it was given in her need and from her heart. The larger gifts were given out of their abundance. We admire the widow because her gift was an act of faith. She looked beyond her need. If not careful, our giving is naturally clouded by personal concerns. Giving is a gauge of our trust in God as our source of everything. It also is one way we acknowledge that God owns everything. Elijah challenged a widow to give to him first in her need before providing for herself. His was a challenge of faith in God to provide for the future. Sometimes holding on to the little hinders us from receiving the bounty God has in store for us.
This past summer I began to reflect on this passage in Luke while pondering the question: how do you give out of your need? To be honest, we mostly give out of our comfort and convenience, only rarely out of our need. Some have called this giving from need sacrificial giving. We have heard about the large gifts that the wealthy give on occasion. More recently, we have heard individuals like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Stephen King, Tom Hanks and Angelina Jolie commit to a plan of giving it all away, coming to the recognition that: “you can’t take it with you.” They may not give out of their personal need, but their commitment pushes them to search out the needs of others. R.G. Tourneau an inventor, industrialist and founder of a Christian university in Texas committed to giving away 90% of his income. His justification was: “I shovel out the money and God shovels it back – but God has a bigger shovel.”
This sacrificial giving makes us vulnerable. This is when we give not for recognition, but for need. At FPU we have seen multiple examples of this among our donors, who have sacrificed their earnings to enhance the education of our students. The humble gift that is born out of the need to honor God shifts the focus to make others’ needs our need. We are then compelled to serve others according to their need as a privilege that expresses the love of Christ. Our giving no longer becomes a burden, or an opportunity for recognition, but a gift of service.
Our God who is the source of love, sacrificed himself for a world in need. He gives himself as a gift to all who would receive him to become children of God. This holiday season let us encourage one another to model the life of Jesus. Let us ask ourselves how might we honor the great Gift-giver who is the source of all gifts? How might we express our appreciation to those who make sacrifices on our behalf? We are in a world where we can no longer ignore the abundance of needs, so let us challenge one another to become the gift that others so desperately need. May you experience the Gift-giver’s greatest gift as you give yourself to others during this holiday season. “For God so love the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).