August 14, 2020

What crisis teaches us about Giving

Crisis tends to focus us inward, on our own needs and situation. This is a natural reaction. Uncertainty and fear of job loss or health difficulties tend to make us less likely to give and more likely to hold on to anything we can get.

But this is not the way that Scripture pictures giving, even in the midst of crisis-type situations.

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.” (Mark 12:41-44)

Mark and Luke (21:1-4) both record the scene where a widow gives out of her poverty everything she has. Jesus recognized the sacrifice of her giving and called her out to his disciples. Her gift meant more than the gifts of all those who gave out of their abundance, even though their gifts were larger.  Paul mentions a similar sacrificial spirit in the churches of Macedonia in response to a crisis impacting the church in Jerusalem.  They gave “beyond their ability” out of their own poverty in order to help others (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).

A Heart for God’s work

Realistically, crisis may alter the resources we have at our disposal and may force us to change the actual amount we give. But it should not impact our heart for giving or our concern for God’s work to go forth. It is our attitude in giving that is of primary importance to God.

For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. (2 Corinthians 8:12)

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Crisis provides an opportunity for believers to evidence their faith.  Anyone can give out of abundance (though, as it turns out, relatively few do!). However, giving when resources are stretched requires faith that only God can give.  Giving in these circumstances provides God an opportunity to work miraculously in our lives, as He did for the widow at Zarephath. At Elijah’s request, she made bread for him with her last flour and oil rather than feeding herself and her son. God responded to her faithfulness by providing flour and oil throughout the rest of the drought (1 Kings 17:7-16).

Throughout Scripture, we see a God who faithfully provides for those who put their trust in him and “put their money where their faith is.”