“I won’t offer up to the Lord my God . . . offerings that cost me nothing.” 2 Samuel 24:24b
For a gift to mean something to the recipient there must be a cost involved, whether the cost is measured in dollars or thought or time. If you’ve ever been the recipient of a thoughtful gift, you know that the impact of another’s thoughtfulness far outweighs the financial cost. On the other hand, an expensive gift that fails to consider the heart of the recipient or is offered only to fulfill an obligation, or worse yet, to impress folks other than the recipient, is not a sacrificial gift.
Last week, I was part of an eight person mission team that traveled to El Salvador with Living Water International to drill a well in a community without nearby access to clean water. The three women of our team, with the help of Liz Trigueros, our LWI translator, taught hygiene lessons to the women and children of the village so that once the well was complete, they would know the importance of clean water and how to keep the water clean once it was drawn from the well.
Spending four full days in the village, we developed relationships, especially with some of the children. But even before we had time to let these relationships grow and blossom, I experienced what for me was the most profound moment of the week. One day one, we met people from the village and walked from house to house to meet folks and to see how they lived. Carlos, the community leader, gave us a tour of the village and a crowd of children accompanied us. One girl, probably 12 years old, taught me about sacrificial giving.
Debora had two bracelets, one black and one green. Each consisted of several elastic strings of beads tied together with a matching ribbon. She untied the ribbons, divided the strands of beads and shared them with the four women in our group. I felt as though I had received the widow’s mite, for Debora gave us all she had to give.
While I have bracelets that involved a greater financial outlay, and ones with sentiment and memory attached to them, I have no costlier one than these four simple strands of green beads. I am grateful for and humbled by this sacrificial gift of love. As I look at it and remember Debora, I hear Jesus’ challenge to me, “Now go and do likewise.”
In the Common English Bible, the story about the poor widow reads like this:
Looking up, Jesus saw rich people throwing their gifts into the collection box for the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow throw in two small copper coins worth a penny. He said, “I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than them all. All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4
The rich put in their spare change, but the widow gave everything she had. I cannot look at the bracelet on my arm without feeling the conviction of my economic station. I, the rich, received from a poor girl, a truly sacrificial gift. But I also am challenged to follow her example of giving, to give generously and joyfully, to give without holding back, to give as I have received from Debora and from God.