An Unsettling Story About Money
How attached are you to your wealth, whatever “wealth” means in your context?
Well, the results of our Honest Answers Quick Poll are in, so I’d like to share them with you, together what is, to my mind, one of the most unsettling stories about money in the Bible.
Are you ready?
Honest Answers Quick Poll Results
It’s always interesting to put a poll in the field. You never know what answers you’re going to get back. But this time, it was kind of what I expected. Here’s a summary:
If God asked you to give up you most valued financial asset, how would you respond?
15% I’d give it to Him without blinking
14% Hmmm … I’d really have to think about that
8% I’d struggle and perhaps give Him part
2% I’d tell Him – “No”
I responded in the most popular group, with the 61%. But afterward I was asking myself the hard question – Would I really??!! How about you?
Just over 75% said that they would give God their most valuable financial asset either without blinking, or after some thinking. That’s pretty impressive.
But does this response match with what we’re actually doing right now? In other words, is it more reflective of wishful thinking than our actual approach to giving?
In a comprehensive piece of research into giving patterns by regular church attenders in Australia, the National Church Life Survey (NCLS) reports that:
19% of church attenders give 10% or more of their income regularly
20% give 5% to 9% of their income regularly
27% give less than 5%
28% give a small amount whenever they attend
7% do not contribute at all
So, just quickly doing the maths:
- 62% give 5% or less, and
- a whopping 82% give less than 10%.
Hang on, that doesn’t quite add up with our Honest Answers Quick Poll, does it?
Is that because the people who read this blog are better givers than the average church population? Is it because the NCLS asked different questions to me? Or is it, because we’d like to think we’d give God the big sacrifice, whilst at the same time, not taking our giving to Him on a day-to-day, week-to-week proposition all that seriously?
I’ll leave you to answer that one.
That Unsettling Story I Was Telling You About …
But while you’re pondering those questions, here’s probably the most unsettling money story in the Bible:
He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He 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 21:1-4)
Why is it so unsettling? Because Jesus wasn’t all that impressed by the rather large amounts that the rich people put in the offering. The one He praised was that crazy old woman who did the unthinkable, by putting all she had to live on into the hat on the way through! What sort of crazy approach to stewardship is that, pray tell?!
Well, it’s the sort that gets Jesus excited. Turns out, He’s not so much interested in how much we give, but rather in what it costs us.
The sort of giving that gets Jesus excited is the sort that is sacrificial.
So What’s My Point?
Normally, as you know, I set out to make a point in my blog posts. But not this time.
I don’t want to guilt anyone. I don’t want to manipulate anyone. I don’t want to judge anyone.
My only agenda, is to make you think; to cause you to ask yourself some questions about your commitment to God’s work.
All I’d ask you to do is to chew on the facts in the context of your circumstances, to chew over your response if you answered the question in the Honest Answers Quick Poll, and to lay it all out before God … and may His Spirit lead you in the right direction.
Other Posts About Money:
Why I Don’t Believe in Tithing
The Sort of Giving that Gets God Excited
Discover the Answer to Your Money Worries
Honest Answers Quick Poll – Attachment to Money
When Finances are Tight, It’s Time for a Budget
Something even more unsettling..
I feel concerned when I see this passage Luke 21.1-4 used to make people give more money, because if we see what else Jesus is saying, we might be surprised. That was how I had always been taught to read it, but then somebody gently pointed out to me Luke 20.45-47 and Luke 21.5-6 (the verses immediately surrounding the passage).
45 While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets. 47 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”
What is it Jesus says about widows here?
5 Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, 6 “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”
And what is it Jesus says about gifts for the temple?
Please do not misunderstand me by assuming that I am against giving! By no means. In fact, I think if we take a deeper look, we’ll see that Jesus is calling for a more radical love and generosity, but one that does not impoverish the vulnerable (the warning against devouring widows’ houses).
Luke 11 has some good examples (go ahead and read the whole chapter, it is quite unsettling for the rich and religious like me!!). “39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.
42 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practised the latter without leaving the former undone.”
I think this is consistent with what Jesus is saying later in Luke, and if we think about the intent and practice of the ‘economic’ laws – tithes, firstfruits, gleaning, hospitality towards widows, orphans and foreigners – it’s like Berni said: ‘we’d like to think we’d give God the big sacrifice, whilst at the same time, not taking our giving to Him on a day-to-day, week-to-week proposition all that seriously?’
But rather than complimenting the woman on her giving, perhaps was Jesus criticising the people and system that was making her live in poverty? I am trying to suggest that if we’re really wanting to think about committing to God’s work, we would be giving more (and more broadly) than just a tithe on Sunday.
One final verse that I find really challenging is also in Luke: (3.11) “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
Some great insight there Lenny. Thank you.
Funny how the 10% comes back to haunt us. (….still don’t believe in tithing?)
Lots of people give to other than churches for the spread of God’s story.
Also suffice it to say – the widow stayed as content as she was!
It’s about being honest, not about what you give. When I first answered the poll, I got it wrong……….I answered what I should be doing……not what I was really doing.
This behaviour goes on with me all the time, I know what I should do, I know what the Bible says I should do, but very deep down I hold innermost thoughts / secrets that are different. These are what God really wants from me when I pray, not just the bland pre -set prayers that everyone else approves of, when I say them aloud!
Hi Berni. Another great blog, my friend. I voted with the majority here, and thought very carefully before answering. But the Lord keeps reminding me of some sage advice I got as a young Christian: “if you want know who much you are really trusting God,if you want to to know your spiritual priorities, check your cheque book.” Today it more likely to be my credit card bill. But the point is clear. How much am I really spending on things that have eternal significance? I came upon a fascinating and sobering website a while back that helped me understand http://www.globalrichlist.com (sorry, no place to put Australian dollars). We Canadians have so much. Lord, forgive us for our lack of faith. Bless you, brother.
Thanks for the insights Bob. A great little website that … Very sobering.
When I read the intro to this subject I was ready to say that I would give as God CLEARLY asked me to. However it became a question about what we offer each Sunday at church. When Jesus came and walked our earth He started a new covenant: The old testament laws are no longer binding us. However we now live by the law of LOVE which most times leads us to go beyond what the law would have had us do.
This law of love reaches beyond our money. God calls us to love by being generous in our money, but also our time by helping, our support by giving food or clothing; in fact our generosity in all areas of our lives to those who we come across who need some form of assistance. This is worshipping God; and God will be well pleased. Paul wrote in Romans 12:1 ‘Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer.’
I am curious could anyone out there tell me what happened to that little old lady that gave her all, did she starve for the rest of the week, did she have to go out and beg, did her brothers and sisters in the church recognise her generous giving and help her out as she had nothing to live off or did GOD bless her abundantly ???????
Nothing in Scripture tells us what happened. But given the Lord’s praise of her behavior, it would be hard to imagine that God didn’t look after her, eh? What do you think?
My friend shared this polling with me and like most people my first thought was to give it all after some wrestling. But at that point, I search my heart for the complete honest truth. It was to be “I’d struggle and perhaps give Him part”.
God knows our hearts so there’s no point to deceive ourselves. My current faith level is limited and I prayed to God to increase my faith so that I would be able to give it all to Him without hesitating eventually. It is part of the journey of a christian … to grow to be more and more like Jesus.
This is a good exercise to gauge where we really are in our faith. I urged all reader to be complete honest to yourself and to God so that you can be grow to be what God intended you to be.
Hey thanks for your frankness June. The Lord bless you on your journey.
gday Berni the poll really surprised me in a way that i did not think the percentage of people that would submit to GODs ask would be so high. the interesting part is this fascination with money by the Australian and American church. ive been part of the “prosperity movement” and was disgusted to see apparent ministers shaming people that gave although it was little simply because they had their opinion of what really maters. growing up i was always taught and still believe that if GOD has told you do do something firstly do it and he (GOD) will see that you have all you need. this ive been doing and even more recently (over the last few years on my website). i know people that have taken up ministry as a job they have studied all the market reading methods to maintain the most effective way for “receiving offerings” and they do their darnedest to implement them.
and then we see churches are dwindling i wonder why?
our first priority is GOD second family third job fourth church them self.
if GOD tells us do do anything then the way is cleared for us , but it is offensive that there are churches and christian ministries that cry out they are doing GODs will and we are to give to it NO THIS IS WRONG, yes if GOD tells us to give we give but if man tells us to give we don’t.
likewise if we choose to support a church or christian ministry it is ok but it is something we as mere men are doing , we are in GODs permissive will but we are not in his perfect will.
people are slowly starting to hold back on giving because firstly they are not taught to trust GOD, or even recognize his voice from all other voices crying out. and because of this they are living in fear and this influences them to hold on to their possessions.
the woman gave 2 mites because she was not only honoring the old law but she had faith (trust) in GOD, we hear all too often we are nolonger under the law but under grace yet this is only ever taught AFTER the receiving tithes and offerings.
this is in no way a condemnation upon those receiving offerings from people that GOD has asked to assist a church or christian group or just the pensioners and families down the road that are doing it tough this is the greatest demonstration of GODs love faithfulness and our obedience.
Another excellent post, I don’t think I give enough, I sometimes try to think I do, just to feel better, to ideally lie to myself, but ultimately in my heart, I know I haven’t given enough, and like you I’m talking about the sacrificial giving…
“The sort of giving that gets Jesus excited is the sort that is sacrificial.”
I looked at how the 12 closest disciples of Jesus…, people like you and me, the closest to Jesus at that time. And 11 out of 12, with the exception of John (who died at an old age), all got martyred, all decapitated, or hanged or crucified.
And Jesus knew these, and He promised them something special…in Matthew 19:28
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
So based on your sentence Berni, my interpretation is that Jesus excepts us to even sacrifice our lives, beyond all materialist things in this world.
It’s interesting, because our Lord gave us life, he can easily take it away from us in a blink of an eye, but instead He wants us to give our lives willingly back to HIM.
and I know there is only 1 source that can help me achieve this, and that’s FAITH.
The type of faith that moves mountains with the guidance of Holly Spirit. Because me alone, I’m absolutely useless, I can accomplish nothing. ONLY THROUGH FAITH I CAN DO ANYTHING and EVERYTHING.
And the ONLY, yes, the ONLY place and source I get to increase my faith from, is not through prayer, nor going to Church, but from HIS WORDS in the BIBLE.
Great insights John. Thank you.