I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give.
I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.
– C.S. Lewis
But receiving is just as important, because by receiving we reveal to the givers that they have gifts to offer. When we say, “Thank you, you gave me hope; thank you, you gave me a reason to live; thank you, you allowed me to realize my dream,” we make givers aware of their unique and precious gifts. Sometimes it is only in the eyes of the receivers that givers discover their gifts. – Henri Nouwen
A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth a penny. Jesus said to his disciples, “This poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.” —Mark 12:42-43
There are times, bereft of your worthiness,
widowed of your claim,
you think you have nothing to offer.
She put in two cents,
and two thousand years later
we remember her.
“She has put in all she has,”
Jesus said: what she had,
not what she didn’t have.
Your lack means nothing;
your poverty, to God, is not real.
What you have is precious.
What you have is not “enough,”
for “enough” is measured. No,
What gifts are in you?
Even the merest penny
is a blessing.
Give it with love.
In the heart of God
it shines like gold.
Extended quote from Jim Harnish
I doubt that any of the practices of discipleship are more countercultural than the spiritual discipline of financial generosity. It’s the difference between “charity” and “stewardship.”
I’d define “charity” as a generous and often immediate response to a specific need. It’s often motivated by the urgency of a need. We see the effects of a hurricane and are moved by Christ-like compassion to respond. It’s like the “Good Samaritan” who saw the man by the road and responded to his need. It’s a very good and often Christ-like response to an immediate and obvious need.
But Jesus’ parables are about “stewardship,” which is a very different thing. Stewardship is a pattern of life which structures the use of our wealth around our identity as a follower of Jesus. Disciples give generously, not primarily because of someone else’s need to receive, but because of their need to give. They practice or grow into the spiritual discipline of tithing (giving the first 10 percent of our income back to God), not because the church needs their money to do its ministry (which it does!), but because they need to practice financial disciplines that enable genuine spiritual growth to take place.
Another difference is that “charity” generally comes from the overflow of our resources, whereas “stewardship” reorganizes our finances by putting our first priority on our commitment to Christ’s mission in the world.
Nobody, including Jesus, said this would be quick or easy, but it is the way in which growth takes place and it is the means by which God’s work gets done in this world.