Stuart's Thought for the Day Video

Pause for Thought

In 2021 life seems to be a permanent sale. Every day as we head for Christmas my email in-box is full of special offers, Black Friday deals and prices I’ll never see repeated (well, till next year!). Like some of you I grew up with shops selling off goods at knockdown prices during the January Sales. Outside classier establishments people would sleep in an orderly queue for several nights to pick up the bargain they were really after. Today we can order anything we fancy at the click of mouse – no need to queue, leave the house or make any significant effort. Even our charitable giving is online these days, saving us from engaging directly with those who receive what we donate. That said, there’s still an extraordinary level of generosity towards a whole range of good causes, and many people struggling to live with illness or disability, caring duties or lack of opportunity are offered relief, comfort and a new hope. As we light today’s candle and enjoy a warm drink we can reflect on what it means for us to be generous, in giving and in spirit. 

Generous to a fault

Jesus was teaching in the Temple and at one point drew the attention of his hearers to the offering box. Many of those putting money in were well off, but a poor woman dropped in two small coins as she passed. Jesus explained, “Listen to me. I’m telling you that woman has given more than all the others. They still have plenty left to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, but she’s given all she had left from her small income.” The tour guides showing visitors around the Temple were pointing out the beautifully carved stonework and tasteful fittings, donated by wealthy patrons. Jesus said, “Take a good look around you at all this. Before very long it will be just a heap of rubble.” Someone asked Jesus, “When will this Temple be destroyed, and what will cause its destruction?” He replied, “Don’t let anyone fool you into believing they can predict the future. Many will claim to speak for me, some will even try to impersonate me. They’ll say things like, “The end of the world is upon us!” Don’t be taken in by that kind of talk, and when you hear talk of wars or revolutions, keep your heads. That’s the usual pattern of history, it doesn’t mean the end of all things is around the corner.”  (Luke 21:1-9)

How do you decide what charities you’ll support? Are you moved by the plight of the homeless and starving? What about those traumatised by years of conflict in places like Yemen? Perhaps you donate to an appeal after a major disaster, or support smaller, more local charities? On a personal level a paramedic was buying herself a lunchtime coffee and sandwich when another customer offered to pay her bill. All these qualify as ‘generosity’, however different they are in scope and context. Frustratingly most of us don’t have the resources to support every good cause that comes to our attention, so we have to prioritise those we think of as most important. We’ve tended to focus our own donations on smaller charities, giving to them consistently to help their cash flow and pay staff. Our friend Canon Garth Hewitt set up the Amos Trust 36 years ago, in his own words “to be a voice for the voiceless”, and although he’s now largely retired, we still support the work he initiated, which continues today, especially the Avocado Tree School in Nicaragua.  

Jesus frequently used examples from everyday life to illustrate a deeper truth. In this account he’s teaching some followers in the Temple, as any Rabbi might. He watches as the well-heeled wander past the offertory plate, ostentatiously dropping in a few coins with a clatter, and then notices a poor woman – likely widowed – who doesn’t have that much cash to splash. All she can manage are a couple of small coins, which don’t make so much noise, then she scurries away, hoping no one has seen her. But if her donation is much smaller, Jesus points out that unlike the wealthier donors this woman has given everything she can with a generous heart and honourable motives. Luke’s account then contrasts this with the elegant craftsmanship on display in the Temple, sponsored by those who can afford to. “It may look indestructible today,” says Jesus, “but before too long it will become nothing more than a heap of rubble!” The poor woman may not have her name on a list of donors, but in God’s eyes her gift will have an impact that lasts forever.

The amount we give is less important to God than the commitment and generosity which motivates it. Whatever choices we make about our financial support, when we give generously and without judgement it’s not only the recipients who are blessed. In releasing our grip on our own resources we too find blessing, because ‘God loves a cheerful giver’. Before you blow out your candle, think about the people and causes you support – and those we support as a church - and offer a prayer for them and their work in bringing hope and joy to those they care for.

Prayer for today

Generous God, you bless us with so much in this life.
May we have open hearts to respond to those in need,
and open hands to give unstintingly of what we have
so they too may know the blessing of your love and care. Amen

Download:

Pause for Thought:

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