Thanksgiving should sting.

It is not often that I am irritated with my daily SacredSpace facetime.  Today is one such day:

“Jesus looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on. Luke 21:1-4

“Some thoughts on today’s scripture:  Generosity is all relative, of course.  Solomon prayed: Keep me from sacrifices that cost me nothing.  Teach me true large-heartedness like that of the poor widow, a generosity that gives in secret, left hand not knowing what right hand is doing, and that gives until it hurts.  Lord it does not matter what others see of my actions or neglect. You see into my heart and know my generosity or selfishness.  Save me, Lord, from sacrifices that cost me nothing.  True generosity is not so much giving what I can easily spare as giving what I can’t easily do without.”

I wonder why offering a “gift” to God is almost always written about as a physical thing and preferably hard cash.  I wonder why so often we “sacrifice” something which “hurts”. I wonder why we focus on pain rather than joy. On paying our way rather than relationship.  On penance rather than delight.

I wonder whether we “get” God Soft Hands Jesus a lot less often than we like to think we do.

When Jesus did what He did – when He showed us the full breadth and depth – the full scale of highs and lows – the pallet of colours far too subtle for our eyesight – why do we so often focus on just one element? Hand in pocket, hand in plate, job done.

Have we really left the “temple sacrifice industry” behind?

Or do we prefer to keep the embers aglow – hedging our bets as usual.  Giving from the wallet – in case we are not giving enough from the heart. Much as we pay for so many things. Much as we are taught to do by good Christians:

The etiquette … a little sacrifice is good for the soul.
The envelope … are you sacrificing enough (preferably within our for weekly giving scheme – and consider writing us into your will – that could be useful – if you know what we mean).
The expectation … you must and should – if you are serious about your faith.

My question is this: Serious about what exactly?

Because isn’t our daily or weekly or annual “sacrifice” so often embroidered with “etiquette, envelope, and expectation”. And isn’t someone – always – counting.

And just how easy is that to become just another club rule? That “you cannot be a member unless you support us financially …” implicit and explicit.

>>> and as I typed those words … an involuntary memory: a church council meeting where that phrase (almost) was said – and which in that setting seemed perfectly reasonable.

If you want to be a member you have to pay your dues – those are the rules – and (as a good christian knows) if it doesn’t sting a little, we would say that you are not giving enough.

Thanks. Giving.

Why does “making it sting a little” make it so much more sincere?


22 thoughts on “Thanksgiving should sting.

  1. I like Lilka’s comment. 😀 God loves a cheerful giver – that says A LOT. I try hard often, to be cheerful about my giving (whether monetary or of self) – I fail often LOL. But I want that. Sacrifice should be a part of our life as Christians daily. Serving others can be the hardest sacrifice – loving and giving of time, food, inconvenience and money……. Well, I could go on and on…… perhaps I’ll blog about that – if I can sacrifice my time to do so – LOL
    Anyway, Paul, once again, you’ve got us thinking. That’s a good thing. 😀

    • Hi Cate – Lilka hit the nail on the head. My personal beef with “sacrifice” is the wrapping we add, the counting we attach and the earnings we expect. I wonder if the cross was a simple gift of love rather than a sacrifice made.
      (and love the gentle humour btw – cheerful commenting! 🙂 )

  2. “I wonder why we focus on pain rather than joy. On paying our way rather than relationship. On penance rather than delight.” Amen. I’m with you on this one! It’s the same reason people consider crying in church “godly” but laughter as inappropriate behavior. This religious rabbit hole goes very deep when talking about how we project our theoligized self-loathing, wanting to save ourselves through our own suffering, onto our relationship with God. But the Bible informs us that in His Presence is fullness of joy. We’re not earning points with Him by showing Him that we really, really mean it through our pain and suffering. What we really need to do is believe, period.

    • Mel, thank you. I am finding with this church of blogs he leads me beside others – and then never away – just not quite so close as another comes nearer. He has drawn me closer to you recently. And I have come to leave the why to Him and just enjoy the company in the moment.

      Love your words and your comment here. Thank you! 🙂

  3. Whether you give little or much matters not, IMO. It is all about heart. It’s always about the heart. I’ve learned that there is only one way to give: 2 Cor. 9:7 “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”.

  4. I always give to get. LOL just kidding.. I don’t give at all. LOL just kidding again. : ) just trying to make your smile since you are irritated today.

  5. I, too, love Lilka’s comment 🙂 I remember once standing at a checkout line and the cashier asked me if I wanted to donate a dollar to St Judes (or something like that). This was years ago. I always said no to these things. No real reason- it just never occurred to me that my 1$ made any difference. This particular time I felt that sting you talk about here…and I knew it was conviction. I gave the dollar on the spot. I knew that God was speaking to me about giving. It wasn’t about the amount- it was about listening to Him. Romans 12:1 reminds me that we give our whole lives to Him as a living sacrifice- it’s not about percentages. The more I surrender myself to Him, the more I want to give 🙂

    • “It wasn’t about the amount – it was about listening to Him.”

      Julie what a profound thought. Now that is a real thinker of a comment! Thank you!! 🙂

  6. Love this. And I love Julie’s point about surrender. For years I was a cheerless giver, and then a person reminded me that everything I have belongs to God. Everything. I’m just managing things for a bit. Really changed my relationship with Christ.

    • Hiya Ruth, odd thing about surrender when we see it as defeat. Yet in matters of love it isn’t.
      “I’m just managing things for a bit” – what a gorgeous way to live. And I relate. When it’s not all mine, mine, mine – then it changes so much.
      Thank you 🙂

  7. Really like this one, Paul, and the timing is perfect as the lead pastor for the “Church” I’m slowly stepping away from just ended a 5-week series on “generosity” with a push for giving more to the Church. (Interestingly, he started off the series with, “This is not about giving more to the Church.” :-/ ) Kinda fried my bananas.

    Anyway, agree with Lilka and Mel on this one. And thanks for the link to the prayer. (1, 2, 3, ….)

    • “Kinda fried my bananas” – now that is a phrase I am going to steal!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Al the best with stepping away. I always think of it as “stepping towards” in times like that. Stepping towards something is scary and exciting and rejuvenating! Never right never wrong – just another step.

      • Absolutely, Paul. It is all three, sort of a free fall. Thankfully, I have wonderful people in this church to step into. BTW, just scheduled your guest post for Sunday. Wrote an intro that will appear tomorrow morning on my blog. Bless you again for that, dirt brother. Our bro, Mel, is writing the concluding piece. Really looking forward to the series. ❤

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