Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Picture of Scripture

Luke 21:1-4 - "As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 'I tell you the truth,' he said, 'this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.'"

2 Corinthians 9:8 - "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."

Luke 6:38 - "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

The story I share with you today came to me this past Sunday afternoon. I will change the name of the person in the story so that the person is not embarrassed in any way. The point of the story is to encourage your heart in your own systematic, worshipful giving to the Lord.

This past Sunday, we began a three-week emphasis on stewardship, which began by our whole church teaching the same lesson during Sunday School. It was taught from 2 Corinthians 8:1-9, and there were two lists of truths to carry away. First, the incentives to giving...those things which ought to motivate us to give. In this passage, we discovered the incentives of (1) the grace of God, (2) being an example to others, (3) spiritual growth, and (4) the sacrificial example of Christ. Second, we saw three guidelines to giving: (1) give yourself to God, (2) give yourself in service, and (3) give your money. I know that there were people in our Sunday School class who struggle with giving because of the financial strain on their families, and so I didn't know what kind of response to expect. Everything seemed fairly normal, though.

During the service, we had a normal order...worshipping through music, praying together, and worshipping through giving prior to the sermon, which was on the foundation of stewardship. It seemed to be a good service, and the Lord stirred some hearts in the area of their personal stewardship. Then, after the service, I heard a story that truly encouraged my heart as a pastor.

There is a lady in our church...we'll call her Eve. Eve has custody of her two grandchildren because of some issues with the parents. Both grandchildren have medical conditions that put additional strain on Lilly and her husband. Lilly's husband works seven days a week at two different jobs, and even with Lilly working part-time, they are barely getting by. Some in our church have helped when medicines and doctor bills piled up, and an electric bill needed to be paid. Last month, someone bought them a couple of boxes of food from the Angel Food Ministries and delivered it just before Christmas. I don't want to go on and on, but you probably get the picture...this is a family that is usually in need, and not the kind of suburbanite "need" some may conjure up...real need.

In the midst of all this, it has constantly amazed me how giving Eve is to those around her. Many times, she will feed and help her friends, though she has nothing to give. She is the Macedonian church in 2 Corinthians 8:2 - "Out of the most severe trial, [her] overflowing joy and [her] extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity" (pronouns changed).

After hearing about the Macedonian church giving "beyond their ability" during Sunday School, Eve was inspired to do the same. I don't know when her husband will get paid again, but Eve had only a 10 dollar bill to her name when she came in the building Sunday morning. During our offering, because she longs to be the kind of giver God wants her to be, she placed that $10 in the plate, trusting God to supply all of her needs. You see, as Jesus said, others gave out of their wealth that morning, and she gave all she had to live on. I don't know what might have gone through her head after that, but I can tell you what happened after our service was over...in fact, that's the whole reason I even know this story.

You see, Eve is an artist, and part of the way she makes extra money is to sell jewelry boxes that she makes in the little shop where she works. After the service was over and before Eve could leave, one of the ladies in our Sunday School class approached her. She said, "Eve, I'd like to buy one of those boxes that you make...how much do you normally charge for them?" "Ten dollars," replied Eve. The friend pulled out a ten dollar bill and handed it to Eve. Immediately, Eve was overwhelmed by the provision of God. She had given everything that she had, and the Lord provided it for her within an hour...pressed down, shaken together, and poured out into her lap. My guess is that Eve will continue to abound in every good work because of the grace God is pouring out in her life.

Sometimes, you can study and study and study to know the meaning of various texts in the Scripture. You may even hear a story about someone you don't know (or some fictional story) to illustrate it. However, when you see the Scripture portrayed before your eyes, it adds something special to all your study. My guess is that I will think of Eve when I hear the widow's story in Luke 21. My prayer is that I will give more like Eve gives.

Do you know why I chose the name Eve? It means "life giver," and today, she has been used by God to add a little more to my life. I pray that she has done the same for you. Praise be to God!