“Why Should I Give to God?”
A man came to a Lutheran Church and asked to see the pastor. “Pastor,” he said, “My dog died and I would like to give him a Christian burial.” The Pastor said, “I’m sorry to hear that, but we don’t do funerals for dogs. You might try the other church down the street. They might do it for you.”
The man said, “I understand. I’ll try the other church. But I was wondering, how much do you think is appropriate to give as a memorial for the church? I was thinking of giving $5,000 in honor of my dog.”
“Now wait a minute,” said the pastor, “You didn’t tell me that your dog was Lutheran!”
Money talks. It always gets our attention. It got attention that day when Jesus visited the temple in Jerusalem. Mark tells us that Jesus sat down opposite the temple treasury, and he watched the people putting money into the offering bins.
In the temple, there were 12 large horn-shaped receptacles to receive the gifts and offering made to God. The people would come by and toss their money into the horns. They didn’t have paper money back then. All they had was coins. So, if you wanted to really impress people, you could throw in lots of coins and make a loud sound.
But then, Jesus heard two little clinks. A widow woman had just put in two little coins that weren’t worth a lot. But this caught the Lord’s attention. He saw this act as a powerful demonstration of faith in God’s promises.
This widow didn’t have a lot of money. What little she had, she could have kept for herself. But instead, she gave all that she had. She held nothing back. This woman gave everything to God.
Why? Why would she do that? Because God was everything to her; God had helped her in the past, and she trusted that God would continue to help her in the future. She had no husband to provide for her. No job to sustain her. No bank account to provide security. All she had was God. And to show her gratitude to God, she now gave it all back. (And I’ll bet she was the happiest and most content person in the temple that day).
Today, our Lord gives us a lesson in giving. Jesus points to this widow as a model of faith and devotion. Jesus says, “She gave everything she had. That is why she gave more than anyone else. She gave because God was the most important person in her life.”
That’s lesson number one - giving to God helps us to keep things in perspective. It helps us to us to observe the first commandment to “have no other gods.” When we give our gifts and offerings to God, we confess that God is everything to us. God is first in our life! God is the most important person in our whole life.
Secondly, giving to God is a demonstration of our faith in God’s promises. We trust that God will take care of us. We believe that the Lord will provide for all of our needs.
But wait – there’s a problem here, isn’t there? It’s a problem that we may try to ignore or pretend it doesn’t exist. But the problem is this: we have trouble trusting God. We really have a hard time believing what God says is true.
Can I really trust God, even if I should lose my job? Can I trust God, even when my relationships fall apart? Can I trust God, even when my health fails me? Can I trust God when I breathe my last breath? Can I stake my whole life on what God says? That’s the bottom line.
There are many promises in the Scripture where the Lord invites us to take him at his Word. We are called to be like the widow in temple who gave to God because she trusted that God would take care of her in her time of need.
Listen to what God says in Malachi: “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse…and thus put me to the test…see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.”
God promises “an overflowing blessing” for those who give. You see, giving is an act of faith. It gets right to the center of what we believe. You see that in the story of the widow of Zarephath. The prophet Elijah asks her for some food. She says, “I’m almost out. There is a great famine in the land. Economic hard times. I have no food left, and I’m at the end of my rope. I’m about ready to die. Life is too hard.”
Elijah says, “Don’t be afraid. Trust me on this. Give me what you have left, and I promise God will feed you. God is going to take care of you and help you through this. If you trust in God and believe what I say to you, God will provide for you and your family.”
So the widow did as Elijah told her. She had faith in God’s promise. She trusted the Word of the Lord spoken to her by Elijah. And all during that famine, she had enough food for her and her family.
And so, in the end, both the widow at Zarephath and the widow at the temple had nothing but God—but God was enough for them because they trusted God’s promises. They believed God’s Word. And that opened up God’s blessing for them.
There’s something else giving to God does—it helps us to overcome our selfish, self-centered way of thinking. It helps us rise above thinking only about ourselves.
The story is told of a member of a church was a very wealthy, but he had never been known for his generosity. The church was involved in a big building project, and they decided to pay this man a visit. When the capital fund raising committee met with him, they said, “Would you like to make a contribution to our program?”
The man said, "Not so fast! Did you know that I have a widowed mother who has no other means of support but me?" “No,” they responded, “we did not know that.” “Did you know that I have a divorced sister with five children who has no means to provide for them?" “No,” they said, “we did not know that.” "Did you know that I have a brother who was injured by an automobile accident and can never work another day in his life? They responded, “No sir, we did not know that either.”
"Well then," he said, "I’ve never given any of them a cent, so why should I give anything to you?"
Why should I give anything to you? Why should I give to God?
Giving helps us to overcome our self-centered sinful nature. It helps us to remember that God is the giver of all good gifts. Listen: God has already given us everything we have today. In fact, the Father has given us the greatest gift of all – the gift of his Only-Begotten Son.
In Christ we see the one who gave everything he had. He totally gave himself for us. The Lord held nothing back, but he gave his whole life totally and absolutely for us and our salvation.
Remember, it was our Lord Jesus who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Again, here the Lord gives us a lesson in giving. He shows us the way of the cross. He teaches us that when we give, we follow the way that he walked. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” When we give, it shows that we are not just thinking about ourselves, but we think of others.
And finally, giving also teaches us this basic Bible truth - everything belongs to God; God is the Creator, the maker of heaven and earth.
My possessions are not mine own. My house is not mine. Even my life is not mine. Everything belongs to God, the Creator of all things. The truth is we have been entrusted with our possessions and wealth so that we might serve the Lord and help others. We are stewards who have been given a trust. We are called to serve the Lord with our whole life, and to serve others by sharing the blessings God has bestowed on us.
And so, like the widow in the temple, we now strive to glorify our God through our gifts and offerings. Giving is our act of worship, our act of praise, our act of faith. When we give in faith, we know that God will provide for us. God will bless us according to his good and gracious will.
And so today, we give thanks that God has helped us in the past in so many ways, and we trust that God is faithful to his promises, he will help us also in the future. Amen.