For the last seven and a half years, I delivered about four hundred sermons here but among them, fewer than three sermons are about money. You already know, I preached on money when I really had to. And today is unfortunately one of those days. But our faith and money… this is a truly vital topic. Money is one of the most critical parts of our life. And it has power to decide many things and change many things. So it is necessary for us to reflect on our stewardship of God-given treasure, and especially, on our practice of giving. What kind of principle of giving should we hold onto as God’s stewards? Let us look into it together.
Who is the most generous person in the world now? So far, according to Forbes, Bill Gates has donated $28 billion with a net worth of $66 billion. Warren Buffet has donated $17.25 billion with a net worth of $46 billion. George Soros has donated $8.5 billion with a net worth of $19 billion. Isn’t it incredible? For me, those numbers are too big to imagine. It’s just surreal. No doubt, they are truly generous people. Then, who is the most generous person in our church? So far, according to Robert, the chair of our finance committee…I’m just kidding! Relax. I don’t even have access to such records. As a pastor, I keep certain ethical conducts regarding finance of the church, and one of them is not to ask anything about personal offering records. So no worries.
Anyway, let’s change the question a bit. Who would be the most generous person Jesus ever encountered? Have you ever thought about this? Do you think Jesus might regard one of the rich guys I mentioned earlier as the most generous person? I’m not sure. But one thing I am quite sure about is this: for Jesus, the most generous persons were not often some people who were rich or famous. In many times, they were the people whose names never make any headlines. And in most cases, they were quite unexpected people like the poor widow we see in today’s Gospel story. She offers two small copper coins that are worth only a penny. But Jesus praises her, saying, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43-44).
This poor widow clearly shows us: Jesus doesn’t measure the size of one’s generosity by the sum of what he or she gives. However, he measures how much that giving really costs the giver something. In other words, Jesus measures how much sacrifice he or she makes to give to God. So here’s the principle of Jesus. Generosity is not determined by the size of the gift but by the size of the sacrifice. Yes, when we give something to God, it should cost us something, something substantial. Otherwise, it is not a real sacrifice. In our giving, there must be a degree of sacrifice, so it makes our gift valuable. So by this measure, the poor widow deserves praise. While everybody contributes something out of their abundance, she, out of her poverty, puts in everything she has, all she has to live with.
Then, why sacrifice? Why do we have to make sacrifice to give back to God? Can we just give some surplus or leftover? Something that doesn’t affect our finance, our savings? Yes, there may be a lot of questions. But the reason for sacrifice is quite simple and straightforward to us, who believe in Jesus Christ. We make sacrifice to give God what we have, because Jesus made his sacrifice on the cross to save us and give us the precious new life in God. One dictionary defines sacrifice like this: “an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.” We all know, what’s more important and worthier in our lives. We all know, our faith in Jesus is the best gift we received from God. So we can give back to God what we value, what we cherish—our time, our treasure, our talents, and even our whole life. We can make our life a living sacrifice to God and God’s vision for a new kingdom of love.
True, there’s no more precious life than the life sacrificed for the purpose of love. There’s no better life than the life of Christians surrendered to the will of God and to the continued life-giving mission of Jesus. And here’s one thing we should also remember. This sacrifice we make for the sake of Jesus and his kingdom isn’t hard or painful. Instead, this holy sacrifice brings us joy. Jesus tells us, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44). For those who don’t understand the value of this hidden treasure, it’s meaningless to make sacrifice to own it. But for those who understand the surpassing value of living in the kingdom of God—the value of worship and fellowship, the value of ministries that change the world, the value of prayers and practices, making sacrifice can be a joyful thing indeed.
Today, we are called to remember the sacred value of God’s unending love, the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. Do you believe God’s love really matters to you and your life? Yes? Then, you can commit yourself to God, even if it may cost you something. Do you believe the sacrifice of Jesus matters the most to you and your life? Yes? Then, you can surrender yourself to the will of Christ, even if it may cost you everything.
The founder of the Methodist movement John Wesley left us great wisdom on money: “Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.” Until last week, I thought, the emphases in these sentences are on “you can.” Earn all “you can.” Save all “you can.” Give all “you can.” But last week this phrase came to me anew as I realized, it is “all” that Wesley really wanted to emphasize. Earn “all” you can. Save “all” you can. Give “all” you can. To God, who first came to us and made the covenant relationship with us, to Jesus Christ, who first loved us and sacrificed himself on the cross for our salvation, we can give “all” we can; we can dedicate our whole life. From today, let us be more generous. Let us find true joy as we make more sacrifice to God and serve God’s mission. May God bless us more and grant us more heavenly gifts as we give God something that really cost us and as we gladly make sacrifice of our time, treasure, and talent. Amen.
 Rick Ezell, “The Heart of Generosity,” preaching.com (accessed November 13, 2019, https://www.preaching.com)
Pastor Earl Kim