We sit on the packed Sunday school benches of the slum church; children of all ages are sitting atop each other in a way that resembles stacked Legos, they sing as an offering plate is passed around by a little girl in a pink “princess dress”. The room feels thick and I am sweating slightly (I will spare you the details on the amount so that you can maintain a lady-like picture of me). I catch my breath as I hear the words to the children’s song: “we give to those who need it more”. The breath that I had just caught grasps my heart painfully as I see every single child in the room give what is roughly equivalent to ten cents.
As a college student, my professors often refer to me as a member of the “temporarily poor”. I will elaborate: I am a full time student, I spend roughly 18 hours in class each week, followed by homework lasting long into unbelievable hours of the night, the job I have offers me two hours of work each week, by the end of my quarter this gives me just enough to pay for text books for the next quarter. My point is, in America, I am considered poor. And you know what, I have taken that as an excuse to not give and I ran with it. I have gotten so good at this excuse that I have created another, more disturbing excuse: “I really want to give, but I would barely be able to give anything at all, so what is the point of giving? My ten bucks is worth almost nothing to this church”.
As I sat on the wooden bench, sweating out my conviction onto the unlucky child mashed against me, I became furious with myself. In the week that followed I thought deeper into this anger of mine. Why have I come up with this excuse? Where did it come from? I felt powerless against my sin. And then I was struck by a thought: how many times have I seen in society those who have the largest sums of money are the ones who are given more authority? And the more I thought on this, it all became about power to me.
In essence, my excuse was not just one of feeling personally incompetent, it was a feeling of marginalization (oh what an angst ridden word); in other words, I had equated tithing in the church with power. I sat and fumed again as I thought about this, part of me praying that I would forget about this discovery and continue living the way I had in peace. But as I prayed, it would not sit right with me, is giving in the church really all about power? Then God reminded me of a story:
Mark 12:41-44 (NIV)
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
“This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.”
I read this line over and over again, and eventually saw that there needs to be a change in my heart. This parable not once mentioned the widow gaining any power with in the church after her offering. Monetary amounts have never, and will never indicate the amount of authority God will give, tithing does not equate with power within the body. My tithes to God should be an offering of love and trust in response to the gospel message!
As I thought about this I was dumb founded at how obvious this should have been, of course I should be giving my ten dollars, it is what I have to give, God calls me to give everything I have to Him, and if ten dollars is all I have today then that is all I have, I cannot refrain from tithing expecting to be able to give more the next time around. I came to find peace knowing that to God, my ten dollars is as much to him as the “fat check” that the well established woman who sits in the front row gave with a joyful heart, and even less than the ten cents that the five-year-old wearing a pink “princess dress” in the slum church gave as she sang of helping the impoverished. Oh how beautiful is this God that we get to know, that we are not judged by our physical means but by the position of our heart in relation only to Jesus Christ.
As you go to church this Easter Sunday, I encourage you to give what you can, whatever it is you can, whether it is ten cents or a thousand dollars. Take joy in the reminder of Gods loving sacrifice of His son for you so that you may be forgiven of your sins. It is humbling for me to ask this of you as my own personal sin is of a greedy heart, but I seek repentance as I am reminded (especially during this week) of Gods ultimate generosity. I will remind myself of the widow in Mark, who gave all that she could and give joyfully, free from the burden of the worldly authority that money possesses.