To the bookkeeper, there was a 20-cent difference between the two. To the preacher, one gave something and the other gave nothing. To the teacher, it was a teachable moment for the students. To the rich man, it was loose change. To the widow, it was all she had.
On one hand, we are talking about money, on the other hand, point of view. You know the biblical stories. One is called the Widow’s Mite; the other the Rich Young Ruler. Both are examples to us about the priorities of a spiritual life. The widow’s story reveals the pride of the religious legalists counting out their offerings in front of the crowds, laughing at the poor, and congratulating themselves for being so good. Her story reveals her heart as one who sincerely gave as much as she had to God, in spite of the haughty onlookers and the meagerness of her offering.
The rich man’s story reveals the dilemma of a morally good person confronted by the fear of financial insecurity, the priority of stuff over relationships, and the expensive cost of discipleship. About the widow Jesus says, “They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything.” (Mark 12:44). About the rich young ruler, found in Mark 10, we see these powerful, descriptive words as Jesus clarifies the man’s choice, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” (The only time this is said about Jesus as he speaks with anyone else in the Gospels!) In response to the man’s decision to turn away from sacrifice and commitment, Jesus says, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
I struggle with these stories. Where do I fall on the scale between the widow and the rich man, the disciple and the Pharisee? I believe that tithing is the clearest starting point for the offerings to the Lord. It’s proportional. I believe that the tithe goes to the Lord’s work through the local church and that gifts and offerings to other good causes and ministries are over and above the tithe. What do you believe? What is your commitment? What is your point of view?
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Give the Lord your best. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
In the late 1950’s the price of a gallon of gasoline jumped from about 19 to 26 cents. That was a big increase—about 37%. There was a crisis in the Middle East. Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, the free shipment of oil was threatened and then Israel and Egypt went to war. The U.S. and some of our European allies got involved. Eventually that Mid-east Crisis was resolved, but the price of gas never went back to 19 cents. Nearly every time there is a crisis in the Middle East the price of gas goes up. Sometimes it makes us more cautious about how much we drive. Sometimes we just get mad. Soon we take a better path.
Around 1959 a man in our Florida church discovered someone was stealing gas from his car. His indignation, his pride and his anger led him astray. Ordinarily he was the funny one in my parents’ Sunday School class. He and his wife loved to host backyard cookouts and were first to arrive with food when the need arose. They had two or three children a little younger than we were. He was the joke-teller and life of every party. Then someone started siphoning gas from his car. His house had an open carport so he could not put his car in the garage. He finally settled on a way to deter his robber. This became war.
One evening after dinner he set his trap. He stripped apart the end of a long extension cord and attached the bare wires to the bumper of his car. (In those days cars were made of metal.) He was going to teach that thief a shocking lesson. He thought of one more touch—water. He got out the garden hose and wet down the car and driveway. He plugged in the extension cord and walked around the car to survey his work. As he neared again the front of the car he slipped, or tripped, but caught himself with both hands on the hood. His wife ran to unplug the cord but it was too late. A family lost a husband and father. My parents lost a good friend. I learned a tragic lesson about anger and the high price of revenge. There is a better path to handle wrongs.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Seek justice, not revenge. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
One night as I prepared to go to sleep, I asked a question of God concerning my future. I asked what God wanted me to do with my life. Then I asked, “Do you want me to be a minister?” I was clearly impressed with the answer, “Yes.” This happened on March 16, 1964. I have never forgotten that night or that call. Sometime later I clearly heard one of my teachers say that the bottom line for doing ministry is remembering and being faithful to your call. That no matter what you face in life or what challenges beset you – remember your call.
When it comes to discipleship, it’s all about the call from God. I believe God is calling out to everyone on earth first to find salvation, and then to serve God. That is the call. Some hear and act on the call. Some hear and run from the call. Some hear and purposefully ignore it. For others the call is overwhelmed by their circumstances and the challenges of life. But I believe God continues to call out to us unless we say, “Stop.”
I was licensed to the Gospel Ministry by my home church almost exactly three years after my call. I was ordained to the ministry 40 years ago this past May. My mentors and friends in ministry participated in a beautiful service where I was set apart, consecrated is the old term, for the vocational ministry. My pastor, Dr. James Harris, and the deacons of University Baptist Church in Ft. Worth, Texas, tested me concerning my understanding of the principles of the faith. The challenge of the sermon that night, by Dr. James Dunn, was to follow the call of God “through it all.” He gave me a written copy of that message which I cherish dearly. What is the call of your heart? Are you living out God’s call today?
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Answer the call. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.