Generosity and Sacrifice

As I was packing up to leave for the airport, I realized that I had about five cans of soda left. I ended up buying a 12-pack for the whole week. Since I cannot take it with me through the airport security, I decided to give some of it away. After dropping off the rental car, I gave one soda can to the guys who checked in the rental car. I then gave one to a worker at the airport. There were some people sitting next to me so I gave one to them.

As I was feeling good about my generosity, I couldn’t help but to think about the difference between being generous due to abundance and being generous out of sacrifice.

Since I knew that I could not bring the soda cans through security and had to throw them away, I was more than willing to give it away freely (even though I was tempted to sell it at a discount price). But then a question that came to my mind was – “what if you were able to take them through security, would you be as generous?” The greater question was, “What if you were thirsty and had only one can, would you be as generous to give it to the rental car guy?”

This is when the human heart comes forth. Whenever we have an abundance or an overflow of something, we have no problem giving things away. Why? Because we are not going to miss it much and also we feel good about having a philanthropic heart. Now, in our abundance, if we do not give, then it is plain greed. But I think most people would give.

To give when we have an abundance is good, but to give when we don’t have much is even better. Maybe this is why Jesus made this principle a teaching moment for the disciples when the rich people were giving a lot of money in the temple treasury. What captured his attention was the poor widow who “put in two small copper coins worth only a fraction of a penny” (Mk 12:41-42). The stunning conclusion came when Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on” (Mk 12:43-44). Jesus was teaching that the amount is not the important indicator of generosity but the level of sacrifice is what He looks at when it comes to giving.

Where do we find people like this poor widow? What would the Church be like if we had more of these people? What would the world be like?

Too often we hear of rationalization (excuses masked in logic) from people – “I am only a student and I don’t have much money;” “We are trying to save for our family” and “I am in debt, therefore there is no way I can give.”

Please don’t misunderstand me… I am not trying to advocate reckless giving where we become unfaithful to our responsibilities or get further in debt. The bigger principle is – are we willing to give up things in other areas of our lives so that certain areas where we need to be faithful in will be fulfilled.

I constantly find myself thinking about “my needs and wants” before thinking about meeting other people’s needs and even thinking bigger about God’s Kingdom. I had to rethink about this today as God used soda cans to bring this principle to my attention.