He 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.” (Excerpt from Luke 21:1-3)
I have a recurring dream, particularly this time of year. Someone calls me on the phone and invites me to lunch. Over lunch that person says, “Martin, I am aware that the church is pressed for funds, particularly in this financial climate, and the church has to spend so much energy to raise those funds. Well, I came into some money this year, so I want to cover this year’s entire church budget with my own gift.”
First I try to catch my breath. Then I offer to pay for lunch. But the person goes on: “I ask only one thing,”
I say, “Sure. Whatever. Would you like some champagne?”
“No, thank you,” he says. “All I ask is that you not accept any other contributions or offerings for the rest of the year. I want to do it all. My gift to the congregation.”
Then I take another deep breath and say, “I’m sorry, but I cannot accept your gift. I can’t do that to the people. It’s not just a matter of being able to pay the bills. We need to be able to respond to all that God is doing in our midst and to share in that work. We can’t be deprived of the opportunity to give of ourselves. To hear the promises of God and to receive the gifts of God, and to be unable to respond? Why, that’s a burden. We just can’t do that to the people.”
A contribution and an offering are different: We make a contribution because the church needs money. We make an offering because we need to give. Only some are able to give a large contribution. Anyone is able to make a great offering.
–Reflection by Martin B. Copenhaver, from StillSpeaking