CONTENT #2 a Stewardship Series
A number of years ago I read a story that changed my whole understanding of Stewardship. In a publication which is no longer around, Rev. C. Richard Stone told of an experience at an airport where he overheard a father and daughter in their last moments together. Her departing flight had been announced and standing near the security gate, they hugged and he said, “I love you. I wish you enough.”
She in turn said, “Daddy, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Daddy.” They kissed and she left. The father walked over toward the window where Rev. Stone was seated. It was obvious that he wanted and needed to cry.
Although Rev. Stone was trying not to intrude, the father asked, “Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?”
Rev. Stone replied, “Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?”
The father went on, “I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead, and the reality is, the next trip back will be for my funeral.”
Rev. Stone continued, “When you were saying good-bye I heard you say, ‘I wish you enough.’ May I ask what that means?”
The father began to smile, “That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.” He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more. “When we said, ‘I wish you enough’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.” he continued, and then shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory:
“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright. I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more. I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive. I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger. I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. I wish enough ‘Hellos’ to get you through the final ‘Good-byes.'”
He said, then the older man began to sob and walked away. (1)
I wish you enough. It dawned on me that was and is God’s desire for us. Enough. Let’s go back to the very beginning. In Genesis we read how God created everything and in the process God created the Garden. In the Garden there was not only enough, there was more than enough, there was plenty. God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden and basically said, “I wish you enough.”
It wasn’t a test. It wasn’t a trick. It was a blessing. God’s promise was that they would always have enough if they simply obeyed God and continued to have faith in God. Everything in the Garden was for their benefit, so they could have enough. But there was one tree which God said was off limits.
Unfortunately, like so many of us today, Adam and Eve thought they had to have it all. Enough just wasn’t good enough. So, they reached out and bit the apple.
There are two approaches to this story. One says every word of it actually and literally happened as recorded in Scripture. The other says that this is simply an allegory which describes how we got ourselves into the mess in which we’re now living. I really don’t think it makes that much difference which version you choose, because the outcome is the same and the message is the same. Both interpretations point to the same basic fact: God’s original plan for us, God’s original blessing was “I wish you enough.” But enough just wasn’t good enough, we had to have it all.
Oscar Wilde once wrote: “In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other IS getting it.” I found that quote in Harold Kushnor’s book, When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough: The Search for a Life That Matters. Therein lies our problem.
God’s desire for us is simply “Enough.” God wants us to be Content with Enough. But ever since that first taste of the apple we have become discontent with just enough.
The whole advertising industry is built upon this very premise, just enough is not good enough. What we have is not good enough. It will all be better if we just have a little more, then maybe that will be enough. Maybe then we’ll be content. But then they build a new model or a better product and suddenly what they just sold us isn’t good enough anymore. We all fall prey to it.
We all start drooling over the newest cars and trucks, the newest computers, big screen TVs, kitchen utensils, clothes, places to go on vacation, the list goes on and on. Over against God’s Will and God’s desire that we be Content with “enough” in our lives, the world says enough is never enough.
As we continue, let’s look at one of the most familiar passages in Scripture, especially during any Stewardship focus. Let’s look at the story of the Widow and her offering. Hear the Word of God from the Gospel of Mark 12:41-44 (CEB)
 Jesus sat across from the collection box for the temple treasury and observed how the crowd gave their money. Many rich people were throwing in lots of money.
 One poor widow came forward and put in two small copper coins worth a penny.
 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than everyone who’s been putting money in the treasury.
 All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had, even what she needed to live on.”
Let me read that last verse again. “All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had, even what she needed to live on.”
Listen to the way The Message puts it. “All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”
An awful lot of us say we trust God but our lives often prove something completely different. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind who this poor widow trusted. The content of her Contentment had nothing to do with the contents of her meager home or the content of her coin purse. She was Content to trust in God.
I. IT’S NOT ABOUT MONEY:
A. Stewardship and giving is not about money. It never is. Contentment is not about money. It’s not about stuff. It’s about our heart. It’s about faith and faithfulness. It’s about trust. Jesus wasn’t blown away by the amount the widow gave. He was blown away by the amount of trust in God that she exhibited in her giving. She was content to rely on God. She was content to trust that God would provide. She was content to live by faith. She knew God would provide Enough.
When we talk about money in the midst of Stewardship, we’re not really talking about money at all. We’re not talking about the Content of our wallets or the Content of our bank accounts or the Content of our monetary investments. We’re talking about the Content of our heart; the Content of our soul.
The Content of our heart and soul tell us more about the state of our spiritual life and our relationship with God than the Content of our wallet or bank account ever could.
The Capital One ads running on TV ask, “What’s in your wallet?”
The better question for Christians is “What’s in your heart? What’s in your soul? What motivates your giving and your use of money? In Whom do you trust? Yourself? Or God?”
It’s not about the things we own or buy. It’s not about things at all. It’s about our spirit of generosity. It’s about what and who we love most. It’s about Who is the head of our life. Is it you or is it God?
B. I remember story told by another pastor that I read years ago. It seems he spent about 30 minutes with her while he was serving an inner city church. The woman walked in with two young children just as the worship service was ending. One of the members told him this woman wanted to talk to the pastor and pay her tithe. This pastor sat down in the front pew to talk, while his daughter and the woman’s two young sons played together.
It turns out the woman walked over to church from the battered women’s shelter across the street, and was very upset that she’d missed worship. She and her boys were getting on a bus the next day and heading to a new life in a city 1,000 miles away. The shelter had made arrangements for her to stay in a shelter in the new city while she searched for a job and housing and got herself on her feet.
She’d come to the church that morning because she wanted to pay her tithe and have this pastor pray for her before she set out to build a new life for her and her sons.
She talked about how difficult moving to a new city was going to be. She didn’t know anyone. She didn’t have a church home. She didn’t have a job. But she trusted God. God would help her make it. God would help her start this new life.
It was the first of the month, and she had just received her welfare check. She very carefully counted out exactly 10% of it and handed it to the preacher. He said he wanted to refuse her money. As much as the church struggled financially, she and her two young sons needed it more. He started to say something but realized that the money (about $33) wouldn’t make that much difference in whether she made it or not.
He realized that by giving that money, she was putting God first. She was living out her trust in God, And that trust, that faith would make all the difference in whether she made it or not. So, the pastor took the money. He gave it the ushers who were counting that morning and then he had prayer with the woman and her boys and sent them on their way to a new life.
She and the widow had a whole lot in common. They both realized It’s Not About Money
II. IT’S ABOUT CONTENTMENT:
A. I believe God honors obedience because obedience grows out of Thankfulness. Thankfulness grows out of Faith and Trust proven. This widow knew God would provide because God had always provided. The widow’s gift of those two small mites, less than a penny by today’s standards, was given out of a deep sense of thankfulness. True giving, True generosity always responds out of thankfulness.
I remember my pastor saying, there are three kinds of giving. There is Grudge Giving, Duty Giving and “Thanks” Giving. Grudge giving gives but doesn’t really want to and feels forced into it either by peer pressure or by guilt. Duty giving gives simply because it knows it’s supposed to and is afraid of the consequences if it doesn’t. “But Thanks” Giving gives out of the spirit of love and thankfulness which grows out of a loving relationship with God.
At one time Rudyard Kipling was so popular that his writings were getting ten shillings per word. There were a few college students, however, who didn’t appreciate Kipling’s writings. They got together and facetiously sent him a letter enclosing ten shillings. It read, “Please, send us your best word.” They got back a letter from Kipling, “Thanks.” (2)
That’s what Jesus heard that day. The sound of two little coins was the sound of Thanks Giving, it was the sound of Contentment and Trust. The widow’s Generosity began with love and responded with “thanks” giving.
B. A friend of mine and I were catching up and swapping stories about our kids. She shared a story about her son. He was always one of those restless little boys in church. He wanted to be in big church, with Mom. On this particular Sunday, toward the end of the year, the Pastor was talking about the Church’s Missional obligations which we call Apportionments. The church was pretty far behind in paying them. He said something about everybody doing their part. And then said, that all in good
conscience, he couldn’t take his paycheck until they were paid.
This friend said that her son, who she just knew wasn’t listening, leaned over and asked, “Mom, have we done our part?” It sort of caught her off guard but she told him, “Yes, they had done their part. The first check they always wrote was for the church.”
Her son thought for a minute and then asked, “Mom, do you think we could help do someone else’s part so Pastor Don can get paid?”
With a big old lump in her throat, she said, “Yes, we can help do someone else’s part, too.”
That young man intrinsically knew what the widow knew, God is trustworthy. God is faithful.
But the story doesn’t end there. When the worship service was over, the older gentleman seated behind them said, “Excuse me, but I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation with your son. That was the most eloquent and moving stewardship sermon I have ever heard.” Then he turned to her son and said, “Because of you, young man, I’m going to do my part and help do someone else’s part, too. Thank you.”
I believe God honors obedience because obedience grows out of Thankfulness. Thankfulness grows out of Faith and Trust proven. Faith and Trust proven lead to Contentment.
This morning I want to close with a challenge. I want to challenge you not only to Trust God the same way that Widow trusted God; I want to challenge you to give like she gave. We all need that challenge. We all need to give our all in order to prove our faith.
I’m not asking you to give everything away so as to become destitute but I want to challenge you to live your faith in such a way that it shows Your complete Trust in God. And you can do it by giving away your Mites, like the widow. WATCH this and you’ll see what I mean.
Although we are called to tithe; although we’re called to be generous; Stewardship and Giving are not about the money. They are about the state of your Heart and your Spirit. Jesus wasn’t impressed with how much the widow gave, He was blown away by her generosity, by her faith, by her heart and by how much she truly trusted God.
How much do you trust God? Enough? Enough to be Content? Content with your life? Content Enough to trust that God will take care of you. Enough to tithe? Enough to give your mites like the Widow? Do you trust God Enough to be Content?
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. The Pastor’s Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651, November 2001
2. Bible Illustrator for Windows, 1990-1994, Parsons Technology