How would you react if the preacher asked you to give everything? This isn’t just a hypothetical question because that’s exactly the point I am going to come to! I suspect that our immediate and natural response will include offence: “How dare he say that!” “He’s acting like those TV preachers.”
Then the honest despair. “I simply cannot give any more time, money, energy. I am exhausted with the busyness of life, I already give so much. There is literally nothing more to give.” Some of us may well even be burdened by this and trying to work out how we can give a bit more. Maybe if we made some sacrifices we will have a little bit more time or money to give if the church needs it.
You see, that’s how we often tend to think isn’t it. We hear the word “Give…” and we think it’s about what the church needs and what it is looking for from us.
Here we have a widow who is willing to give everything. Note that Jesus has just rebuked and warned about the religious leaders and one of the charges he makes is that they “devour” or rob from widows.
Then Jesus watches as the people put their money into the treasure boxes at the temple. Many are making big offerings out of their riches. Jesus watches as a widow comes and puts two coins in. Jesus says she has given more, not because proportionately she has given a greater share of her income but because she has given everything.
- What will enable you to give everything?
There are some clues here and in some of the other encounters along the way as Jesus has come in to Jerusalem for the Passover. Look back through the preceding chapters and you will see:
– a rich young man who goes away sad (Luke 18:18-29)
– A blind man who receives sight and follows to Jerusalem (Luke 18:35-43). He leaves behind everything, his begging bowl to follow.
– A tax collector who gives back 4 x and then half away (Luke 19:1-10). That is a lot to give and possibly didn’t leave him with much at the end.
There’s also a major contrast in the parable Jesus tells about the tax collector and the Pharisee’s prayers. One comes trusting in his own righteousness, the other acknowledging his own worthlessness (Luke 18:9-14).
There’s a warning as we have seen about those who devour (Luke 20:46 -47). They take advantage of the poor and the vulnerable.
Finally, we have a victorious King – who rides into Jerusalem, humbly and on a donkey. The people sing hosanna as they greet their king. He is the one who has healed them of sickness, he has given them sight, he has set them free from demons, he has caused them to walk, he has cleansed them from leprosy.
These are people who are following Jesus because of what he has done for them. For me, in the Zacchaeus and Bartimaeus accounts particularly are two men who knew the truth of Jim Elliot’s famous quote
“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
What exactly has Bartimaeus given? He has given his blindness and his begging bowl. What has Zacchaeus given? He has given away wealth gained by dishonest means. He has given what wasn’t ever really his and he has given what he cannot keep.
Now, we aren’t told anything much about this widow. We don’t know what if any encounter she had with Jesus beyond his observations but we do see someone who at some level is acting on faith, knowing that she can give everything into God’s care and trust him to keep her. She gives her whole life into God’s hands. The reality is that like Bartimaeus and like Zacchaeus, she has nothing. She gives all of her nothing into God’s hands and trusts him. That’s the difference between her and those wealthy people who thought they had something and were being generous by giving a little of it to God.
- What does it mean for you to give everything?
This is not about finding a little bit extra, time, money, energy for church
It is about saying “My whole life is in Christ’s hands” I belong to him. It is about recognising that I have nothing of my own to start with. It means looking at my life differently.
– I may have money now but one day it will run out and I can’t take it with me where I am going. It can’t buy me love, happiness, friendship.
– I may be physically healthy and full of energy now but I will grow old and weary.
– I may think I have a lot of time ahead of me to give but age will creep up and death will come
I cannot depend on those things for life. They are nothing. And so I give my everything to Christ because it is only in him that I can have what truly matters, forgiveness, righteousness, life.
This means that if I have little to give in physical terms, it doesn’t matter. I have given everything to him not because he is looking for a down payment, not to prove my righteousness, not to buy God’s love but because I need Him.
This means that if I am blessed with much in terms of time, money and energy, I must treat it all as from him and for him.
This means that I am not giving to the pastor or the church because they have a need I can supply. I give my whole life to Christ because I need him.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.
Not the labour of my hands
Can fulfil Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.
While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
[originally When my eye-strings break in death]
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.