We’ve all heard the account of the poor widow giving all she had to Jesus.
With the loss of her husband, it is likely she was now without any financial stability or even rights in society. Even still her heart was so stirred by who Jesus was that she gave her last two copper pennies.
This was not lost on Christ as he described her gift as “extravagant.” He took a moment to honor her sacrifice. Even among the large-in-size gifts made that day, he recognized her gift as the largest offering by far.
All too often, we stop at the celebration of the generosity of the poor widow. We commend her resilience and moxie. She truly is an inspiration. Her radical generosity should not be discounted. I mean, wow.
However, I think we miss the hard truth Jesus was sharing with the other characters of this story.
I think he was criticizing those who were more privileged, more comfortable. Those who had more in this story that did not make a sacrificial gift. There was no connection to the money they gave. Jesus even said they will barely miss it.
When I transport myself into this story, I hear Jesus wonder how they would let the poor widow sacrifice all she had when they had plenty more to give. This is still relevant today. People with less still give more. The checks may be larger from those who are wealthy, but the sacrifice is larger from those with less zeroes in their bank accounts. People with earnings in the top 20% contribute 1.3% of their income to charity. While people with earnings in the bottom 20% contribute 3.2%. As Christ followers, are we fervently pursuing better for our neighbor? Are our gifts pulling us deeper into the work of improving the corner of the Kingdom we are in? Or are we making gifts to create a buffer between us and the people suffering? Philanthropy in its purest form is not our way to check a box. It does not assuage our own pain by feeling better about ourselves. It is not to keep the marginalized at arm’s length by making out of touch contributions or by creating a new twisted hierarchy of people. It is about getting intentionally invested in a better community for us all. It should tangle our hearts and minds with the success of the organizations we support.
Check your own heart about giving. What is your motivation to give? Giving is a way to transform our community, but also a way to transform our heart. If our gifts are removing us from the cause, then we are missing the point. I pray that every gift you make, no matter the size, is life-changing.
Check the heart of your organization about fundraising. What kind of donors are you cultivating? Of course people who make large contributions to your organization should be celebrated! But I think there is a call here to honor way beyond the dollar amount. Look at all your donors as your pool of champions in the work you are called to do. They are all worthy of celebrating! The story from which this blog is based can be found in Luke 21.
Taylor Johnson, CFRE
Director of Strategic Partnerships