Contributed by Paul Baglyos, St. Paul, MN
Generosity: Is it just a nice idea or is it a life commitment?
Earlier this fall blogger David Briggs, writing for the Huffington Post, noted that recent research reveals that many churchgoing Americans misrepresent the amount of money they give in charitable contributions. Whether intentionally or not, many people reply to questions about their giving by overstating the amount they actually give. Briggs describes the research findings as indicating a “gap between perception and reality.” Many people think that they give more than they really do, perhaps because they are unaware of their actual giving. They may claim that they give more than they really do because they want to be regarded as more generous than they really are. Apparently, many people are more committed to the idea of giving than to the actual practice of it. For Briggs’ full article on the research findings, go here.
- Why do you think many people overstate the amount of money they actually give in charitable contributions?
- Do you think it is difficult to be generous? If so, why is it difficult?
- Do you know any generous people? Who are they? In what ways are they generous?
- Are you a generous person? Do you find it difficult or easy to be generous?
Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, November 11, 2012 (Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost)
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
By commending the example of the poor widow, Jesus makes it clear that true generosity cannot be measured in money but only in attitude. The widow’s two small copper coins, worth only a penny, count for little in comparison to the much larger sums of money given by others. The true value of her offering is that it represents everything she has to give. In other words, the widow is more generous than all the others because she gives everything while they give only something.
Jesus emphasizes that the widow “put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” By any human calculation, the widow has done something reckless and foolish. But her reckless folly mirrors the generosity of God. Again and again in the teaching of Jesus, as in the entire Bible, God is seen to be reckless and foolish in God’s own abundant generosity. Consider the stories that Jesus tells about the father and his two sons (Luke 15) or the laborers hired to work in the vineyard (Matthew 20). Read what Jesus teaches in Matthew 7:25-33, and reflect upon the ways in which the poor widow has taken such teaching to heart.
By commending the generosity of the poor widow, Jesus points to the generosity of God. The widow is a witness to the generosity of God, who gives everything and all. Consider what Martin Luther teaches about God’s generosity in the Small Catechism, where Luther explains the Apostles’ Creed. Scripture tells us that human beings are created in the image of God. The poor widow shows us what it means to live as the image of the God who gives everything and all.
- How do our practices of generosity witness to the generosity of God? How does our giving represent what we believe about God? What does our giving teach others about God?
- What does it mean for us to be people created in the image of an abundantly generous God? How does our generous God call us to live?
- Have a conversation at home with your family about financial giving. Ask how much money the people in your family give in church offerings and other charitable contributions. What are the beliefs and attitudes that guide the giving habits in your family? Are the people in your family willing or reluctant to talk about their giving? How does your family teach and practice generosity?
- As a group, identify a project or a concern toward which you would like to make a collective contribution. Make a plan about what you will do together, including the commitments that each person will make to help fulfill that plan.
Help us who have received so freely from you to give as freely in our turn, and so have the pleasure of giving as well as the happiness of receiving.* Amen