A Generous Church
Luke 21:1 He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; 2 he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; 4 for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”
The treasury was really the bank for the poor. It was the place where people donated so that the poor and needy, the orphans and widows could be cared for by the religious community. This wasn’t just the offering plate being passed at church, but it was the place from which this woman would have received her help and yet, instead of asking for help, she gave with a heart of generosity. She represents the Church, called to help the poor. With generous hearts, out of our her own poverty the Church is called to give all that she has to minister to the needy.
What would happen if the Church gave “all that she had to live on” to the poor and needy? That’s not really the picture of the Church today and it forces us to ask some hard questions of ourselves.
In the early years of Christianity’s acceptance within the Roman Empire the Church received its “tax free” status because she cared for the poor. The intent was to keep the Church free to be able to be the system by which the needs of the sick, poor and needy were met. It was the church that through the centuries provided the hospitals, orphanages and often schools.
The attitude of society toward the Church has changed and the role of caring for the poor and needy has been abdicated to the government. Today the Church struggles with giving away very much and prefers to keep a larger percentage for herself. No wonder the government wants to tax her! Sounds like the picture that Jesus was painting on a personal level. We only want to give away so much — or as much as we feel comfortable giving away. The wealthy gave away money to the poor but probably never sensed the loss to their income. The widow gave away that which was precious to her — she gave up her own resources to help others. She gave up all she had to live on.
I’ve been a leader over a group of Churches and the issue of money is a serious one. Things are tight and sometimes it’s hard to keep the lights on. Sadly I see a culture developing where the Church is becoming more concerned about herself and her own survival than about what she can do for others. Rarely would one find a church who was willing to give the last of what she had to help others but instead, would cut her help to others to make sure she could take care of herself. This seems to be the instinct and yet, that’s not what Jesus wanted, either on a personal or corporate level.
The call is to be generous as a Church. The call is to good stewardship and a generous heart that gives away all that she can. I believe that out of her generosity the widow’s needs were provided for she put her trust in God. So should we.
Lord, thank you for the timely reminder today. Amen.