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The Meaning of Generosity

Among the greatest instances of generosity displayed in Scripture are the gifts given by two widows. One is the story of a widow who gives the last of her food to the prophet Elijah, and the other is the story commonly referred to as The Widow’s Mite, which is in view today.

Jesus is in the town of Jerusalem attending a service at the temple. During a time of giving, wealthy individuals begin donating large sums of money into the collection. Paying little mind to the rich, Jesus observes a poor widow that gives two mites who would easily go unnoticed. A mite was a Jewish form of currency equivalent to a penny or less in today’s dollars. The sum is small enough to seem inconsequential–especially when compared to the larger amounts given by the wealthy. However, Jesus praises the widow for her generosity saying, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all” (Luke 21:3). Mathematically this is not the case. By all objective standards, her gift is likely smaller than the others who contributed. How is it possible that she gave more than the others?

Generosity is almost always seen as a sizable gift. We praise people for giving “generous sums,” and almost always mean large financial gifts. It is for this reason that Jesus’ description of the widow seems odd. However, Jesus understood a key principle of giving the others lacked. Giving generously is a matter of the heart, not the size of the gift. Over and again, Scripture demonstrates that God desires people to give freely and cheerfully.

You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.

–Deuteronomy 15:10

The widow demonstrated this in the eyes of Christ. Her small gift, although financially insignificant by worldly standards, was significant to God. She gave out of her livelihood in order to remain faithful to God. Her act of giving was an act of faith. In her day (and still for our own), it was incredibly difficult for a widow without a husband to remain financially stable, yet she gave what little she had to the Lord. Unlike the rich, she would have to believe that God would provide for her, as her donation was the last of her resources. This puts the situation in perspective because many only give out of excess, if at all. This is not true generosity. Generosity ought to challenge and create a feeling of sacrifice that deepens dependence on God instead of the resources that are available.

God is a generous God. The greatest act of generosity was giving his only son as a living sacrifice for our lives. By giving generously, we tie ourselves closer to him. When we give sacrificially, we are reminded of this sacrifice–albeit on a smaller scale. Through giving we are not only displaying the character of God, we are prioritizing his kingdom efforts. This is why Jesus reminds us that “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Give the resources at your disposal to the kingdom of God. You will soon witness that giving generously increases blessings in your own life.

24There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more,

And there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. 25The generous man will be prosperous, And he who waters will himself be watered.

–Proverbs 11:24-25

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