Followers of Christ often hear about tithing, offerings, and gifts. However, the question of how much God expects us to give runs deeper.
While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins.
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.” (Luke 21:1-4)
Some followers of Christ risk being prideful about how much they give to God. They can fall into the trap of feeling important due to the size of their gift.
Others have the opposite problem of pride. They believe they have so little to offer, that nothing they give can have any significance for God’s kingdom.
From a human vantage point, either attitude can appear to be the truth. However, we need to remember that God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
This is an important principle when we consider how much God expects us to give. We are given a lot of information on this topic, but what does the Bible say?
The Greatness of a Gift Isn’t Measured by Size
The Bible is replete with miracles and object lessons about great things coming from small things.
One of the most well-known of Jesus’ miracles was the feeding of the 5,000, which started from a few fish and loaves of bread. And yet there were enough leftovers to fill 12 baskets (John 6:13).
Jesus teaches about the parable of the mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds that grows into a tree large enough to host birds (Matthew 13:31-32).
Even the Body of Christ, which has survived the ages and undergirded one of the world’s largest faith movements, started from Jesus Christ and His small number of disciples.
The reason why the greatness of our gift isn’t measured by size is because God takes what we give and multiplies it for His glory. The power of our gift does not end with the amount we give. And we are unable in our human ability to out-produce God’s increase.
So how do we understand how much God expects us to give?
How the Greatness of a Gift is Measured
Now let’s consider today’s passage and the widow’s 2 coins. It may have been a small amount, but she gave all she had.
God does not ask for riches. He asks for our all, whatever that may be. If we are willing to give all of ourselves, He will take that and multiply it for His kingdom. Our gifts can be money, and they can also be time, physical effort, volunteerism, using our spiritual gifts to help others, etc.
The size of our giving matters less to God than the size of our surrender. Christ is not looking for followers who tithe; He is looking for followers who sacrifice. And He is the greatest example of that, sacrificing all the way to the cross (Philippians 2:5-8).
Not long ago I heard of a movement – maybe you have – called a “reverse-tithe”, where some are giving 90% of their earnings to God. I don’t want to disparage someone else’s conviction; I will simply say, that could still be missing the point. Christ expects total surrender in every area of our lives.
Ultimately, spending time deciding how much God expects us to give is a misguided exercise. When Christ tells us to deny our own way, take up our cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23), He’s not telling us to figure out what 10% of that looks like. Jesus wants our all.
Take the example of the early followers of Christ. They did not consider anything to be “theirs”, but gladly shared what they had for the good of others (Acts 4:32-35). There were no conversations about how much God expects us to give. They gave freely.
The Joy in Giving Our All
God is delighted when one of His disciples shows their obedience to the utmost ability to give. It shows that we are being heavenly minded rather than earthly minded.
It’s possible that the widow was humbled by only being able to give the small amount she gave. But I like to think that she was happy to give all that she had to God.
We might be tempted to think, “oh that poor woman,” while she may have been thinking how privileged she was to give anything to God.
Let us never be embarrassed to give what appears to be a small gift in human eyes, if it’s all that we have to give. Because we know how much God expects us to give: everything.
Other verses about giving:
1 Chronicles 29:14; Proverbs 11:25; Luke 6:38; 1 Corinthians 1:28-29; 2 Corinthians 8:1-12; Ephesians 4:2; Hebrews 13:16