38 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces,39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”
The Widow’s Offering
41 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.42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."
That's pretty intense. Let's begin with a not-so-serious moment and look at stewardship...
This may come as a revelation to you but there are many churches in Las Vegas. Not surprisingly, some people who come to church will put casino poker chips in the offering plate instead of money. Since churches get chips from many different casinos, the churches have devised a method to cash in all these different chips. The churches send all their collected chips to a nearby Franciscan Monastery for sorting. From there the chips are taken to the casinos of origin and cashed in, then the cash is given back to the churches. This work, this labor, is done by....
Today, I want to talk to you about "Generosity Allowed". In our gospel reading a poor widow gives everything, even though it isn't much. She gives everything to help others. Jesus doesn't stop her. He allows her to be generous, even though she was the one in need.
Generosity is a willingness to give more of something, more than is expected.
We often speak of people being generous with their money, but people can be generous with their possessions, talent, time, attention, compliments, help, encouragement, hugs, listening, advice and so on.
When people are generous, without fanfare or hoopla, they are blessed, whatever the gift. Generosity leads to blessings.
Beth Hughes, a stay-at-home Mom in Oklahoma, was about to pay the grocery store cashier for food for her family's Thanksgiving Dinner last November. A customer tapped her on the shoulder and said, "Ma'am, I'm going to pay for your groceries."
The customer stepped in and swiped her credit card, paying the $214 grocery bill, and left. According to KJRH TV, Hughes was so shocked that she can't remember if she said "Thank you" but she did share the story on Facebook and encouraged others to do the same.
What causes someone to be generous, especially without a reward? Well, I suppose it has to do with one's heart, one's spiritual condition, one's willingness to listen to God's promptings, a willingness to bless others...In reality, we humans can be both self-centered and generous.
The opposite of generosity is greed. Our whole lives we will struggle with our sinful self. We will want to take care of #1. We will hurt others, just so we can get our way. We will pass up opportunities to be generous and act selfishly. Of course, we will have justifiable reasons for our actions.
But, we see in our gospel reading that Jesus is a people watcher. In his teaching Jesus said "Beware of the scribes..." be he could have said "beware of your own sinful self." The flesh, that selfish part of you, needs to die everyday and a new God-centered self should arise to live in obedience to God and God's ways.
Jesus took the disciples aside and said, "watch this." It was an insignificant act, a poor widow putting in a penny. Jesus, the people watcher, was telling the disciples, "I like this. This is the kind of person you were created to be. You are allowed to be generous!"
My life has been blessed by generous Christian people. My parents were generous and giving people. They gave to the church and the community and to their children. My mother has said, "I'm giving you this money. My parents did it for me. I hope you do it for your children."
I had a friend by the name of Terry Jones. Generosity came more naturally to him than to me. He was willing to share candy bars, pop, toys, etc. with me.
I have been blessed by generosity in the church. One of those generous people was Evelyn Muir in Harlowton, Montana. One day, before church, she grabbed me by the arm and marched me up to the offering plate at the front of the church. Then she announced, "Pastor, I want you to know that I just won the lottery and I am giving 1/10 of my winnings to the church." Then, she placed a $1 bill in the collection plate and returned to her seat. Evelyn was generous to the community as well. Every year she bought a golf membership at the country club. She didn't golf but she knew that it helped the club survive in a small town.
Dick Frier was the barber in Harlowton. He took care of a man who had a drinking problem. This man had burned bridges with friends and family. Yet, Dick gave him free haircuts, brought him groceries and checked in on him.
Our gospel reading is telling us, generosity is allowed, you were made for this. God sees the core of us. He knows we struggle with sin and selfishness but he knows our great potential. He knows that in each one of us is a generosity impulse. We are being told to go ahead and give in to that impulse. The world, and you, will be blessed by your generosity.