Diary

Give like the widow

widows_mite

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

That Scripture in Luke 21 is sandwiched between Jesus telling his disciples (so that all could hear) to beware of the scribes, and His prediction that the Temple of God will be thrown down. About the scribes, Jesus described a pompous, hypocritical class of self-important elite snobs who “devour widows’ houses” and love most hearing their own voices. Sound familiar?

As for the Temple, we know now that in 70 A.D., the Roman emperor Vespasian’s son Titus led legions to crush the Judean rebellion. Despite Titus’ “rules of engagement,” his troops destroyed the Temple so completely that “not one stone was left upon another,” thereby fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy 37 years before.

But the widow who gave two mites—a worthless amount—alone received Jesus’ praise.

In my own life, we are learning one of the central lessons God teaches in the entire Bible: That the weak shall be strong, the last shall be first, and those who cling to their own lives and things shall lose all. We haven’t lost everything, but we are moving through a journey of faith. You see, in September, I left the corporate job I had for the previous 15 years. Almost three years ago, we had sold the small business I partly owned to a multinational technology giant—that made me a fairly high-level executive in a public company.

Many would have jumped for joy at attaining that lofty position. Our executive meetings were held at 5-star resorts; we traveled frequently and were treated very well. Had I stayed I could have made all kinds of money (the company’s stock has shot up leaving Apple and Google in its dust). But God and circumstances called me out.

Since leaving corporate life, I’m working on something smaller, as in just a few people, scraping to get by on some small percentage of my previous income. We have tightened our belts, learned to shop for bargains, gone without some things that we thought were important but ended up being luxuries, and had to look carefully at our giving.

And I’ve never been more grateful for that experience. Giving from the perspective of having is a fairly easy decision. I know people who can write a check for a quarter of a million dollars without batting an eye. I read in the news that multi-billionaire Mark Zuckerberg has pledged to give away 99 percent of his wealth. Let’s see, that leaves one percent of 46 billion for his newborn daughter to inherit—only $460 million, but who’s counting?

My family and I have been given an incredible opportunity to give from the widow’s perspective. We don’t have much, but we can give all we have. You might think I’m pretty foolish for choosing this life over the safety and security of a corporate job, and from the world’s perspective, you’d be right. But I join a long list of fools who have done beautiful things with their lives.

There’s a dentist from North Carolina who sold his practice, his home and everything he owns, and moved his family (and young children) to rural Thailand to run a horse farm and share the Gospel. And a Florida couple who sold their technology company and moved to Israel—only to be unceremoniously deported after 12 years when their student visas were not renewed. Now he works as a handyman.

The point is that there are more important things than money and material things, but God looks at how we use our assets more than simply how much we have. Jesus, as God, could have had anything He wanted, but He left it all. The Temple, in all its splendor, was just a symbol. The riches of the scribes was meaningless to Jesus because they gave without a sacrifice.

Though I have less to give, I am truly grateful to God for giving me the eyes of the widow. This Christmas season, our world would be greatly improved if all of us would choose one area in which we could give like the widow. Time, talent or treasure, give all you have, and your reward will be great.

(Originally published in the Houston Home Journal.)