A father and his 12 year old son were at the gas station and as the father was pumping gas he noticed a small dog licking up a puddle of gasoline that was on the ground. All of the sudden the dog started running around the car as fast as it could. Running and running until finally he just dropped to the ground right in front of the father. His son who had been watching this from their car leaned out of the window and asked, “Is he dead?”
The father bent down and looked at the dog, “No,” he replied, “I think he’s just run out of gas.” Running out of gas I think describes us as Christians sometimes when we consider giving. We just feel as though we have run out of gas and there is nothing left.
In the Gospel reading today, Jesus is sitting in the temple watching people as they give their offerings. The temple in Jesus’ day had 7 large trumpet shaped bronze tubes where people could drop coins to support the temple worship. Our reading says many rich people put their money in and you can kind of imagine how as they poured their money in that it would make a loud impressive noise. There were those who just walked up and threw their money in and then there is this poor widow. She puts in 2 little copper coins. They were small coins, not much bigger than the tip of my finger. They were light, because there was not much metal in them. Together the two coins were valued at less than one penny. But look at the response of Jesus. He calls his disciples over to him and points out this woman and what she did. Jesus told them that she had given much more than any others.
In this section two types of givers are contrasted with each other. There are the wealthy givers who gave lots of money and then this poor widow putting in some coins that were all she has to live on. So why do people give their money away? Why did this poor widow give her two coins that day in the temple? She had to know that her tiny offering would make no major difference to anyone; this amount could only matter to someone who was as poor as she was. So why does she do it? What was her motivation?
Obviously, we cannot know for certain because we are not told. But if we think about it, we can come up with some pretty good possible reasons. The first possible reason is she may have given from a sense of obligation in that she was fulfilling a vow. Vows were important to the Jews and taken quite seriously. So this may have been a situation where she had told God that if He answers her prayer for whatever, then she will respond by giving all she has. If this is the case we can note that she did not make any excuses about fulfilling her vow. She didn’t say, “Lord, I know I told you that I would give you all I had, but now if I give this, I will not have anything, I will be hungry tonight. She makes no excuses. And so here she is, giving all that she has.
The second reason perhaps was because she wanted to give thanks. Have you ever wanted to tell God thank you for something? Something wonderful has happened and it doesn’t seem as though a verbal thank you is enough. If this was the reason she was giving clearly the thing God had done for her was not a monetary blessing. It was something else. It may have been some impossible answer to prayer. Perhaps it was a restored relationship. It may have been a healing—this may have been the woman whose son was raised from the dead by Jesus, or perhaps the bent-over woman Jesus had healed. Whatever it had been this woman was so filled with thankfulness that she was willing and wanting to give all she had to God to thank him. So it may have been thankfulness that motivated this woman’s offering.
There is another possibility as well. It is possible that this offering was done as a declaration of love to God. Love for God causes people to do out of the ordinary things. Out of love for God, Abraham was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, the son he loved and for whom he had waited for years. Out of love for God, Daniel was unwilling to stop praying to his God and was willing to disregard the king’s edict about prayers and thus face the lions. Out of love for God, Nehemiah left his job at the court and worked with the exiles who had returned to Jerusalem. He faced threats of assassination in order to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Out of love for Jesus Mary the sister of Martha took costly perfume, probably her dowry and broke the bottle open to pour it on the Lord’s feet. Out of love for Jesus, the Apostle Paul suffered stoning, beatings, jail, and humiliations in order to tell others about Jesus. His letters to the churches are filled with the message of God’s love shown through Christ for them.
Love for God causes people to do extraordinary things. God does not require us to give up all that we have to live on like this widow did. And the fact is that we are even unable to give and love God like this unless we begin to understand God’s love for us. Unfortunately most of us go through our lives only grasping a little of who God is and how much He loves us. We only catch glimpses. We only see shadows. The ability to see and understand God’s love for us is a gift, a gift from God Himself. St. Paul in the letter to the Ephesians chapter 3 prays for them, saying, “May God strengthen you with power through the Holy Spirit, so you may be able to comprehend and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” According to this scripture we receive that fullness of God by being able to comprehend the love of Christ to us, to you and me. And in order for us to be even able to somewhat comprehend this love, we have to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit. We are too weak otherwise.
We do not really know why this poor widow put in all she had to live on into the offering at the temple that day. It may have been fulfilling a vow; it may have been thankfulness. But I like to think it was a surging of love for God, being full of his presence and love and as such she simply responded as much as she could. She gave all she had.
November is our stewardship month. But just like the little dog in the beginning of the homily, it is easy for us also to run out of gas. It is easy to get excited but then be unable to sustain it. That is why it is so important to understand and to comprehend God’s great love for us because that is what sustains us. In this stewardship month we expect the members of St. Andrew’s and ask our regular visitors to fill out the pledge cards that you received in the mail from the church this past week. If you did not receive such a letter and card we have more in the church narthex and you can pick up the letters from Craig and me and a pledge card. We encourage you to give back to God one part in ten. We encourage you to give out of love and thankfulness to God. What I really want for you and for me is to be filled with the comprehension of God’s great love for us. Because it is as we comprehend his love for us and as we contemplate all his blessings that we are able to be filled with his love and respond with joy in giving. Amen