"My goal was to grow as big as a shovel..."
This weekend I told a story about my dad and his commute: walk to the riverbank, unchain his boat, row across to the Ohio side, ride 1½ hours to General Electric, work eight hours on the second shift, ride 1½ hours back, row across the river, walk home with your oars. I can’t even imagine that in a cold rain at 2 A.M.
It’s amazing what someone would do for their family, what they would sacrifice. It made me think about my church family. What would I be willing to do? Even writing the words church family sounds cheesy…but it’s true. There is, of course, the cosmic family, those who are children born from God’s Spirit. But that plays out practically in the local gathering, whether it’s a megachurch, a house church, or a small group.
As my wife and I processed what we’re doing financially regarding the Luke 4 Challenge, it made us think about sacrifice. It’s still hard for me to seriously connect it with inconvenience, or discomfort, or loss. Even when I think about sacrifice as it related to Israel, I tend to feel badly for the bull or the goat or the turtledove. But I forget the profound effect it could have for a family: the loss of income. Our team in Nigeria was profoundly touched and humbled by the offer of a chicken from one very poor family as a gift just for coming. It was overwhelming generosity. No...let me rephrase that: it went from overwhelming generosity to a family-jeopardizing sacrifice. That makes me uneasy, but a good uneasy. It almost feels like a challenge. Paul used that same dynamic to rally churches when he was taking up a special collection for the poor in Jerusalem, telling the Corinthian church what the churches in Macedonia did:
Though they have been going through much trouble and hard times, their wonderful joy and deep poverty have overflowed in rich generosity. . . . I am not saying you must do it, even though the other churches are eager to do it. This is one way to prove your love is real. 2 Corinthians 8:2, 8 (New Living Translation)
The story of Jesus watching the widow drop her last two coins in the temple offering does the same thing for me personally. I could argue that she could have done better things with her big sacrifice: that the temple money wasn’t being used wisely, that the ruling Sanhedrin was not really very spiritual, that the people dropping their noticeably big offerings were hypocrites in that assembly, etcetera etcetera. But Jesus seems unconcerned about all that. He saw her offering as a major sacrifice...to God. And get this: the God of the universe—God in the flesh—was impressed. And I assume it takes a lot to impress God. I'm pretty sure He's seen everything.
I guess it takes personal sacrifice.
Nevertheless, I'm taking it as a challenge. What would I be willing to do for my church family, whether here or in Nigeria?
What would you?