|What’s It Worth?—Pastor Steve Nelson, BCBC|
(From the October 2010 edition of HopeSpeak)
The question: What’s it worth?
Since the fall of Adam, the heart of man has ever gone after that which pleases our fallen nature. When Jesus stepped onto the stage of this Earth’s history, He saw the struggle in everyone He met. His disciples were caught in the struggle as they joined ranks with the Savior. James and John, the sons of thunder, used their own mother to try to secure the highest places in His kingdom. Judas Iscariot secures a place among the inner circle, hoping to gain glory, wealth and honor. And even impetuous Peter seemed to have struggled between selfish gain and self-surrender. But Jesus made it abundantly clear, “the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” It’s as if He were saying, “If you are looking for a Fortune 500 company, then this not where you need to be.” And yet, two thousand years later, there are many who still seem to have missed the point. How could we have missed one of the most important sermons He ever preached?
Everything Jesus did had an eternal value. Every act, word or deed is a timeless lesson of unending worth. Step into one of these lesson moments with me. Jesus has brought His disciples into the temple to see the true value of living. It must have been a very busy time, perhaps during a worship service, because the people all bring their offerings and Jesus “just happens” to sit down opposite the place where the offerings are gathered. No simple plate is passed down the isle for them to quietly place their sealed envelope in. No nice cloth-lined bag to absorb the noise of dropping coins. It’s just one gigantic collection plate—on display for all to see.
This is a perfect opportunity for someone of wealth and power to gain the respect and admiration they “deserve” from the entire church body. Perhaps arriving just a few minutes before the service starts, there they are—strutting right up to the front of the collection line. Well, no one would expect for him to wait in line. After all, that enormous bag of money was far too heavy for anyone to have to struggle with any longer than necessary. If no one noticed them coming in, all heads most certainly turned as the sound of dropping coins broke the silent worshipful air. It is as if God had won the lottery as the loud clinking of coins was heard dropping into the collection plate. The people were impressed, the giver felt his heart swell with pride and he most certainly knew God approved of such a generous offering. “How pleased He must be that I gave so much to help His work,” he thinks to himself.
But there, almost unnoticed, is a more important scene taking place. She is alone. She has lost the one who was more precious to her than life itself. The one to whom she had given her heart and life, the one with whom she had shared her hopes and dreams, is gone. Her heart aches as she remembers how this time used to be one of the most special moments between them. They loved coming into the house of God and joyfully worshipping and singing His glorious praises. But now she is alone. No husband, no support, and almost without hope. And there she is, her heart aching from loneliness and fear, as she quietly makes her way to the enormous collection plate. The dreaded plate with its strategic location designed to gain the attention of everyone, all of those looking toward the plate, the faces of those she had hoped to hide from. It almost worked. They were still talking amongst themselves about the enormous amount given by the man of apparent limitless means.
“I wonder how much he gave this time?” one woman whispered to her friend.
“I thought the coins were never going to stop falling into the plate.”
“I’ll bet you could have heard the sound of all those coins dropping a mile away,” her friend replied.
But Someone else is looking on. He sees the heart of the rich man swell to near bursting as he takes his reserved seat among the privileged and few. He knows the means that were also not given—the extravagance wasted for personal pleasure and the gross misuses of the blessings God had allowed to flow his way. Sadly for him, at this time, he has failed the test. He gained much of this Earth’s wealth, but what he held back was the part God truly desired, his heart. God wanted him to have a heart that would see the real mission field, the one right beneath his own love of display.
Quietly, carefully, and with hardly a notice, she quickly places her offering into the plate. Those two, small, copper coins barely make a sound as they drop onto the massive pile of gold and silver already filling the donation plate. But He sees. Something so important could not pass by His notice. And this time it’s not man whose heart is filled with joy, it’s God’s; her Creator. He saw the tremendous amount of love she had for Him. Jesus tells His disciples, “out of her poverty, she put in everything—all she had to live on.” She didn’t have anything else to give; she gave it all!
I’ve heard it countless times from well-meaning lips, “when God blesses me with the sale of this, or the income from that, or the settlement from the other thing, I pledge to give a big donation to help fill-in-the-blank.” Sadly, they seldom ever do.
I’ve also seen others who give like the rich man, only where they get the most “notice for the buck.” But does God count good intentions or audacious displays of recognized giving? Apparently not. Why? Because they did not give what counts the most. Their hearts. When the heart is held back, the giving will be withheld or directed in a channel that may not be where God intended it to go. God says, “every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.” He says everything we have is His, and it is only by His continual blessings that we even have breath to live. So why do we keep ourselves from Him?
In the end, all the stuff we have accumulated, all the treasures we have stored, will one day be gone. Join with me in praying that God will help us choose how He wants us to further His work so Jesus can come soon. No offering given from a heart of love is ever lost. Two thousand years ago Jesus brought His disciples into church to teach them an eternal principle of giving. Once you give your heart to Him, all seems like it could never be enough to thank Him for what He gave for you—His life to set you free.
Steve Nelson is Co-Founder and President of The Hope of Survivors and currently pastors the Mattoon, Stewardson, Noble and Fairfield Seventh-day Adventist Churches in the Illinois Conference.