Sermon – 21 October 18 – Lynn Hellmuth

WIDOW’S MITE 21 OCT 18

About 20 years ago my mother became very ill with a rare type of brain tumour. So rare that the Doctors admitted they were quite stumped about how to treat her. It was an agonising time for my sisters and I and my father as we saw my mother’s health deteriorate week by week.

One day, after work in London I popped into the very prestigious and famous book store Foyles, and because, I suppose, my mother’s condition was always on my mind, I found myself browsing in the medical section.

Imagine my surprise when I came across a small paperback book of about 60 pages whose title was the name of the rare type of brain tumour my mother had and whose contents outlined various ground-breaking research and treatment options.

I flicked through the pages and knew I just had to have the book to help us as a family understand more about my mother’s condition and perhaps even assist the doctors. I started to walk towards the cash desk to pay when I thought I’d better check the price for this slim volume. There in pencil on the inside cover was the figure. £175. £175! 20 years ago. For a paperback! For a moment I hesitated. This was silly money. I couldn’t really afford it.

But it was only for a second. I loved my Mum and would give all that I had to try to make her well. £175 to help her was cheap at twice the price. I bought the book. Took it to the next meeting with my mum’s consultant who took it away and studied it and explored various new treatment options as a result. I have never told anyone in my family how much that book cost as money was never the issue.

And I’m not telling you this story now to big me up but to illustrate the fact that I, and I am sure you too, know all about sacrificial giving for our loved ones.

If there is something our nearest and dearest needs, or that would make them very happy, most of us find ourselves being generous to a fault. Caution is thrown to the wind. We go beyond what would be prudent to give, even beyond what we can easily afford to give. We may be prepared to dig into our savings, put life goals on hold for the sake of the one we love.

We are all familiar with the concept of generous giving. And we recognise it as a noble, sacrificial, thing.

Now, let’s think by contrast, about how we go about giving money to other causes – ones we’re not that personally invested in for instance a charity that doesn’t excite our interest that much, or a whip round for a not very popular colleague’s leaving present. We don’t mind giving a bit, but the amount we end up donating is relatively small and comes out of the surplus we have after we’ve taken care of not just our needs, but also our wants, and the naughty but nice treats on top.

What we give to these causes is from the bounty we have. It doesn’t hurt, indeed sometimes we hardly notice the amount that has gone. It is still giving, and good as such, but not in the same order as the sacrificial giving we were thinking about earlier.

In our Gospel reading today Jesus looks into the hearts of His hearers then and now. He contrasts the widow’s modest but sacrificial offering with the larger but less “costly” gifts of the richer worshippers that day. Jesus taught a lot about money and possessions– more than 10% of his sayings were on this topic more than He said about sex, or hell, or salvation.

In his teaching He argued that how we chose to handle our money, ultimately given to us by God, said something about our relationship with God. And He called His followers to look beneath the surface of their giving to what it said about their spiritual health.

So this morning I invite us to consider how we decide how much we give to God – both to the church and other causes we feel called to support. Do we fish around in our purse or wallet when we come to church and give a bit of what happens to be there that day? Or do we plan our giving and commit to give week by week whether or not we’re there, either through envelopes, standing orders or such like?

Thank you if you do give a planned amount regularly as of course the church’s outgoings are the same week by week whether or not we’re there, and it is very useful indeed for the finance team and PCC to know how much money is guaranteed to be coming in regularly.

But even if we give in this planned, regular way our Gospel reading poses a further more challenging question. What does the amount we are giving, proportionate to what we have, say about our relationship with God? When I say giving to God I mean to causes He has put on our hearts. In my experience this almost always includes giving to the church we’re a member of, but it very often extends beyond that to other needs and issues He has drawn us to.

Are we giving generously, even sacrificially to God perhaps cutting back on our luxuries to give to what God has put on our heart? Or are we giving from the metaphorical equivalent of the crumbs that have fallen from our table small amounts that are hardly missed, if we’re honest?

How we decide what we give, and how much that is proportionate to what we have, is of course just between each of us and God. It is no one else’s business and we are not answerable to anyone but God. But we cannot cheat God. He knows how much we have. He knows how much we could spare to give if we chose to do so. How much we would be prepared to give for a loved one.

And the irony is not lost on Him if the amount we choose to give Him is nearer what we’d give to a not very popular work colleagues leaving gift, than what we’d give to someone we care deeply for.

I have to admit I feel uncomfortable sharing these thoughts with you as it is very un-English to talk about money and I don’t want to offend anyone, or put anyone on the spot. But the teaching I am sharing this morning is Christ’s teaching and I feel its important we address these issues together.

St Augustine said; “Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.”

I pray that God will give me and us all soft, open, hearts, to hear what he is saying about what we need and what we should give. And that having heard from Him we will do His will.

Amen.