I have a pretty clear memory of being in Sunday school as a child and hearing a Bible story about a woman giving all she had.
Jesus and his disciples were in the Temple watching as people were giving their offerings, many had lots of wealth and were giving a lot, but one woman only gave two copper coins. Jesus points out that in giving those two coins, she had given all she had to live on, which is worth more than all that the others put into the treasury. (Mark 12:41-44)
In Sunday school, we read this story, colored a picture of a woman placing two coins into a box, and were told to give all we have to the Lord.
That was easy for me as a small child who received a quarter on Sunday mornings for the offering. All I had to do was keep track of the quarter for 45 minutes and put it into the offering plate as it came by. But flash forward 15 years, and that idea of giving everything I have to live on to the Lord has gotten more complicated.
It is easy for me to say, “Yes! Of course I am giving everything to the Lord. After all, I am giving a year of my life to serve here in Tucson.” But when I sit down and actually think on this, I don’t think that is a true at all.
For this year, I am working at Community Home Repair Projects of Arizona (CHRPA). CHRPA provides home repairs and adaptations to low-income homeowners in order to make their homes safer, more energy efficient, and better places to live. Each day I, along with a CHRPA employee, go to people’s homes to do anything from repairing an evaporative cooler to replacing a hot water heater, from building an access ramp to re-wiring a house.
One of my favorite parts of this work placement is the interactions I have with the clients we serve. Its an opportunity to hear stories from their lives.
One woman, lets call her Linda, was telling me how she never expected to end up in a place where it was difficult to make ends meet. She is struggling to keep up with bills and find work, and she is also dealing with many health problems.
The thing that shocked me while talking to Linda was the incredible amount of love she shows people. She told me of how she cares for her friends and neighbors; two friends who have also been struggling financially are living in her home. She also is housing a friend’s dog that he couldn’t keep at his place. Linda had many stories of how she was looking out for people in her life and helping in any way she could.
My first thought was one of wonder. How does she do all this when she doesn’t have much to give? But that didn’t matter to Linda. What mattered was that she was supporting people, in every way she could, to make their lives better.
Linda is generous with her time, money, and resources, which is more than I can say about myself.
I am not saying I am not generous at all. I give my time and energy to lots of people. If someone asks me to do something for them, it’s pretty likely I’ll do it.
But honestly, I am not generous when it comes to gifts. Either physical or monetary gifts. Even though I have an abundance of everything I need, I don’t like to give money, or food, or even possessions in a lot of cases. Its a hard thing for me to do.
Part of it is that I like to be prepared financially in case something were to happen where I need that money. What if I need to go to the doctor? What if I need maintenance done on my car?
I could what if this to death… But why should I?
Did Jesus say about the woman in the temple, “She gave all that she had to live on. Except her savings account. She is saving that just in case she has an emergency.”? NO! He didn’t!
I can try so hard to be prepared for anything, but is it worth it if I am not being generous in my everyday life?
To me, generosity doesn’t look like only giving money to the offering on Sunday mornings. Sure that is giving to God, but God is in many more places than those pews. What about offering food to my neighbors, giving a woman who is homeless some cash, donating to organizations that are doing good work?
And that doesn’t even begin to address all of the giving that I can do with excessive possessions I have…
I have the joy of being able to witness generosity every day: Through those of you who have made donations or sacrifices to help me be able to spend this year serving others and through experiences with clients like Linda.
Being generous like Jesus suggested looks like the woman who brought us jars of peaches as a snack each day that we were at her house building an access ramp for her husband. It looks like the mother who said she didn’t have much but wanted to make sure we had food for lunch, so she gave us a bag of snacks to take with us as we left. It looks like a man giving us cold bottles of water on a hot day as we fixed his kitchen sink.
Generosity like Jesus wanted is giving when it isn’t expected, required, or easy.
I will continue to be humbled and challenged each time a client gives me even the smallest thing because that is giving of themselves and their possessions to a complete stranger.
Giving to strangers sounds like what Jesus did.
I think it could make the world a little brighter.
I want to do that but I’m not good at it, yet.
I have so much to learn and thankfully God gives us endless grace as we learn to love better.