Formation

A Practice as Lent Begins: Giving from our Poverty

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“Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

I was remembering recently a time when years ago during a group lectio divina meditation on this Scripture, the line the Holy Spirit highlighted for me was this: “She, out of her poverty…”

As we sat with this passage, the question that came up for me was “Where is MY poverty? And what would it look like to give out of it?”

Easy Giving

I suspect that too often in our context we are overly-focused on giftedness. We want people to know their gifts (and ours) and, in a sense, to operate out of their “riches.” When it becomes clear that someone is good at something, or has resources in an area, we want them to begin serving, giving, worshiping God with that. And so, the musician who plays well is encouraged to play for God. When it becomes clear someone can speak and communicate well, we encourage her to use that gift for God and for us. The good graphic designer is pressed into using that gift for the community, the natural leader to lead, the one with the gift of hospitality to be hospitable. And there’s nothing wrong with that. God has given those gifts to us for a reason.

But giving out of our gifts, out of the riches of what we do well and willingly is easy. Maybe too easy, in many ways.

In sitting with the question of where my poverty lies, I realized that we all have areas within ourselves of relative riches and relative poverty. And God wants it all. He created us, bought us at great cost to himself, and desires that we give to him our whole selves—that our worship of, devotion to, service of him be holistic.

We all have areas within ourselves of relative riches and relative poverty. And God wants it all. He created us, bought us at great cost to himself, and desires that we give to him our whole selves. Click To Tweet

But I wonder if, like us, God tends to smile at certain gifts more than others—not that he doesn’t take delight in all service, all worship honestly given, but in the same way we value the hand-made gift, the hand-written note, the thing that shows effort and thought, I wonder if God sees gifts given out of our riches a little differently than gifts given out of our poverty? The easy gift of operating out of our strength versus the harder gift of having to dig deep into our less-comfortable and less- competent places.

For myself, I know I am very comfortable in certain areas of ministry and less so in others.

Out of Our Poverty

And as I sat, meditating on this, I became convinced that God wants me to worship Him not simply out of my surplus, giving to him what costs me little because I have so much of it, or because I am good at it. He does want those things, but perhaps what is more worshipful of him, more forming for me, and ultimately maybe even better for others is when I take stock of the areas where I am poor and decide to give God everything I have there—to step out, and as an act of worship, do what is less comfortable, less likely to end with the positive ego-enhancing feedback we all so love.

Step out, and as an act of worship, do what is less comfortable, less likely to end with the positive ego-enhancing feedback we all so love. Click To Tweet

Here are three ways you can potentially make a Lenten practice of giving out of your poverty this season:

  1. Volunteer to do something that is not “your thing.” Chances are, there are areas of need in your community, or in your church, that you have waved off because it’s not something you really feel especially drawn to. Like serving in the church nursery, spending time at the rescue mission, working hard at greeting new folks, or taking something nice to new people in the neighborhood. Whatever it is that makes your stomach clench up just a little at the thought of doing it—that’s the area of your poverty. Lean in, reach out, and be stretched.
  2. As an act of worship this Lent, pick up a practice that doesn’t come easy for you and stick with it through the season. Maybe it’s praying prayers written by others (try the Divine Hours books by Phyllis Tickle, or the Face to Face prayer books written by Kenneth Boa), or try writing or just speaking your own. Or even spending time just sitting quietly, listening to God. Do a 30-Day Scripture reading plan (try the YouVersion Bible app), try reading a devotional or Christian book from outside your stream, or listen non-judgmentally to a podcast from a pastor you wouldn’t normally listen to.Not into musical worship or generally eschew worship music? Maybe now is the time to listen in the car or on walks—not because you love it, but because you don’t, and you want to make a practice of giving yourself to God in a way that does not come easy. Give the time you are engaging with these new and uncomfortable practices to God and see what he does with it.
  3. Give sacrificially. Once you’ve established the habit of giving, it’s not too hard to budget, give, and then live comfortably within that budget. The point of Jesus’ story though, is that those who give sacrificially out of their poverty are giving more than those who give out of their wealth. Chances are if you are anything like me, you give—to your church, to charities like Compassion, to any number of good causes. But your giving probably at this point doesn’t require you to think about what you might have to go without this month. This Lent, try giving in such a way that the ordinary luxuries of life, like Starbucks, like eating out, like going to a movie, aren’t really feasible. Give the way Jesus commends in this Gospel narrative and see what God does with it.

God, this Lenten season, may I learn to value my poverty more than my giftedness—my weakness more than my strength. For it is in my weakness that your strength and grace are shown and bring me to maturity.

 

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