I remember when I first started to give away part of my money. I was 4 years old, and it definitely wasn’t my decision. My parents told me that it was part of the deal if I was going to get my allowance of $1 per week: I would get $1, and I had to give $.10 away. I agreed. Reluctantly.
Since that time, my attitude toward giving has changed. For one thing, it’s no longer enforced by my parents. But it’s also become less painful. I’ve come to find joy in giving, and much of that joy is inspired by Jesus’ teaching in the New Testament. Two stories in particular have taught me lessons that have changed my attitude: the story of the rich young ruler and the story of the widow’s mite.
Here are a few things these stories have taught me about:
- Give with a pure heart. In the story of the widow’s mite, the widow is contrasted to rich men coming to bring large contributions. But Jesus says that the widow put in more than the others had, because she gave everything she had. Her heart showed in her contribution. It wasn’t an act of obligation, it was a gift of sacrifice.
- No gift is too small. Most people would have discounted the widow’s contribution, because it wouldn’t have created a new program or funded a new building. But Jesus valued her small, sacrificial gift. This encouraged me when I gave my $.10 every week at the age of four!
- God is more important than money. The story of the rich young ruler reminds me of priorities. The rich young ruler valued eternal life—he had a strong moral compass and sought out Jesus’ advice. But in the end, he could not give up his material possessions. Money was more important to him than seeking the Kingdom of God.
- Money can drive a wedge between you and God. The story of the rich ruler also serves as a cautionary tale; money can come between me and God. Even though the rich young ruler had good intentions, he could not follow Jesus because he could not give up his possessions.
- Giving is a lifestyle. In both accounts, it is clear that money is a habit and a lifestyle. Most likely, the widow’s contribution was not her first. It takes discipline to live sacrificially. The rich young ruler lacked the discipline of living without ties to wealth. Thanks to my parents’ insistence when I was young (it was painful to give up the money I was saving for a new Barbie!), I eventually found joy in giving, and it became a part of my life.
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