In recent years, there has been a rise in the popularity of random acts of kindness. It may be an act of kindness for a stranger, such as paying for the person behind you in a queue or paying for coffees in advance so those who are homeless can have a hot drink. I know a lady who crochets flowers and leaves them for others to find.
Other acts of kindness are more intentional. They involve thinking about someone you know and doing something for them, like writing them an encouraging note or giving them a gift without them knowing who it is from.
I received an act of kindness when I was heavily pregnant with my second child, and my oldest had just turned two years old. I was having a tough day, there was a lot going on at a wider family level, and my emotions were all over the place. I decided to take my son out for lunch. When I went to pay, I was told it had already been paid for. Someone had seen me and decided to bless me and my son with a free meal. I have never forgotten their kindness.
Just before today’s passage in Mark 12:3–40, Jesus warned about religious leaders who liked to walk around in their fancy look-at-me robes, with their elaborate look-at-me greetings. As a show, they made long prayers in public places so everyone could hear. They took the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets. They liked to be seen. Yet all while “they devour widows’ property” (Mark 12:40). They unfairly take from the poorest and most vulnerable in their society. Jesus concludes that “these men will receive a more severe punishment.”
It is in this context that we find Jesus and the disciples sitting watching the offering box. There were the wealthy who give large amounts. Then along came this poor widow. She gave so little, but Jesus told His disciples that she “has put more into the offering box than all the others.” I can imagine their confused faces: no she hasn’t, she gave only two copper coins! We saw her!
However, Jesus knew this woman. He saw her, and He knew her generous heart. She had given everything she had to live on! She had given her all to God, quite literally.
The people of God should be generous, reflecting the much greater generosity He has shown us. When we read about the early church in Acts we are blown away by the generosity of God’s people and how they looked after each other. But even then there was a couple, Ananias and Sapphira, who sought to gain credit for themselves as being generous, while deceitfully withholding some of the money they made. When they were challenged and lied, God struck them down dead. The problem isn’t that they kept some of the money from selling their field. The problem is their deceit, wanting to be praised as being generous when their hearts weren’t (See Acts 5:1–11).
We need to be honest with ourselves. Are we truly generous? Do we calculate what is the least amount I can get away with giving? Do we seek praise from others for all that we do in helping people? If we aren’t thanked how do we feel?
Do we hold lightly to the temporary things of this world, seeking to be generous with all that we have been given? It isn’t just money, but our time, words, homes, cars, food, even the best seats! We can be generous in forgiving others and in our patience with others.
I am challenged by these questions. Too often I seek my comfort rather than going out of my way to be generous to others. I am reminded that is not Jesus’s way. I pray the Lord would continue to use the scalpel on my heart, to make it more like Jesus.
One of my favorite old hymns is by Isaac Watts called When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. The last verse says:
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all!
We don’t all have to give away everything we have. But we are called to be generous, knowing everything we have was given to us by God for us to steward wisely. God sees what we give and what we choose to withhold. He knows our hearts. We are called to be women who respond to the great generosity God has lavished on us, by being generous to others, giving our all for Christ.
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