And then Jesus said, “Truly I tell you this poor widow has put in more than all of them; 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. (Luke 21:3-4)
Jesus watched, perhaps not unlike many of us today; as an observer, from the sidelines. And it was time to take up the collection; time to put your money where your mouth was, in terms of the Temple monies. As he watched, people of means came and put their gifts into the treasury. Did He smile as they passed by the collection box? Then He noticed this old woman drop a couple of quarters – perhaps more than half of what she had to spend on food – into the box. Many people often criticize Jesus here. I’ve heard it and you may have also. The natural direction of the criticism leans toward the church putting the burden on poor people. Many of us would use the argument of not sacrificing because we are ones who give. We who give of ourselves voluntarily, today, in most any capacity, usually get accused of being a “martyr.” Giving our life to God seems to be some warped psychological phenomena. My view is that my life somehow got lost when I tried to get away from what God made me to be. I think that in regard to this biblical scripture in Luke, we push Jesus a little. I know, when you have a lot it’s easy to give a little. I do that rather well myself. It’s easy for me, walking down the street to give a coin to a person. But can I call that giving in abundance? That coin didn’t get dropped because of love for the person. It happened because it eased guilt. I can walk away, just as those rich people at the treasury in Jesus’ story, feeling good about myself. But it’s not abundance. That’s more selfishness in my heart. It’s when I have a dollar and I know that in giving it away, I will be blessed. That’s abundance. The abundance to which we are truly called is an abundance of Spirit. It is a generosity of spirit that reaches down and gives from the joy God has given us. God loves us unconditionally. So giving and knowing Gods’ love is not connected. But true giving comes out a heart that overflows with joy and with all the possibilities that come from sharing the wonderful love of God with all people. We should be getting ready for a new time, for new life and a new awesome wonder. This is important. It is important because we need to concentrate on our community outside the walls of the church. We need to push outside of our walls and outside ourselves. In doing this, we will more easily meet our faithful obligations to the ministry of the whole church. When we do this, we can take our God inspired place in the community of humankind. Giving in grace and love to our individual efforts in our community we give out of faith, out of abundant and expansive hearts. Everywhere there is an outpouring of hope and love, everywhere are expressions of faith and ministry. Commitments come, not even from a sense of obligation, but because we know that God gave us talents and gifts that are meant to be shared with all peoples. Our challenge is to recognize those talents and gifts and learn how to share the best way possible. The spirit of God works in many ways. People we see each day may be that spirit working for you. The Godly spirit within is understandable and reachable if we but listen to that still small voice of love. My prayers are that giving of our gifts and talents feed our ministry because it is given in love by abundant hearts. It will be fed by our overflowing love and joy. And it will be realized by our unshakable conviction that God’s love is being made visible at this time and in this place. God has given us each an assignment. Some of us may recognize that and follow what we are called to do. Some may stray away for a time but then some person or some thing comes along and turns us around and heads us in the direction for which we were intended to follow. We then can recognize that calling once again through our visibility of giving and loving. It is there in blankets given for the homeless. It is given in time to teach and care for our children and youth. We hear and see it when we sing and celebrate in worship. It is there as we move into new ministries for men, women, and children and with all people here in this place, this world, our assignment. Growing in giving of ourselves lets each of us grow from love in our hearts. It comes from what God has put on the table for us. Let us grow in giving, knowing that we come to worship, to serve and to relationships with people offering all our gifts, talents and skills for the building of God’s community in completion of our assignment.
Rev. Suzie Chamness served as Senior Pastor of Spirit of Life MCC of New Port Richey, Fla., beginning in 2009, having been a Volunteer Clergy for the Congregational Care Ministry at King of Peace, St. Petersburg, Florida and worked as Chaplain at Bon Scours Maria Manor Care Facility also in St. Petersburg. She completed her Masters of Divinity at the Florida Center for Theological Studies in June 2006 and ordained in August of that year.