When I was in college in Alberta, there was a retired church member who felt impressed to give for a special offering. Being on a fixed income, he couldn’t afford much but he made a deal with God. He planted a hollyhock in his backyard and told God that he would give a dollar for every blossom on that plant.
Long story short, the plant had so many blossoms on it that it made the local paper and several record books. As he shared his story with the church he described how, while keeping his deal with God had seemed fiscally impossible, God had blessed him above and beyond what he thought possible and had enabled him to give, even a little more.
Sacrificial giving isn’t really something we talk about much and I don’t know why. Maybe we just don’t know the meaning of it anymore. Sure, we give to others in need all the time but the concept of depriving ourselves for the sake of someone less fortunate is completely foreign to most of us in today’s world. And the more we have, the harder it is to give. Like the rich young ruler, we turn away, thinking of all we have and everything we would have to give up.
I don’t remember where I heard this story, but it comes to my mind regularly, especially around this time of year. It begins with a single mother and her four children sitting in church about a month before Christmas.
At the end of the service, the pastor tells the congregation that the small church is going to take up a special offering to benefit a poor family in the community, to be collected just before Christmas. The mother and her children are very excited about this special offering and on the way home, they begin to plan ways that they can save money.
Together they agree that, if they buy a big bag of potatoes and forego the more expensive items on their weekly grocery list, they should be able to save $50 by Christmas. They also decide that they can raise an additional $50 by making each other’s Christmas gifts instead of buying them.
As the month goes by, they occasionally grow tired of the simple food but each time they do, they remember what they are saving the money for and are thankful. Finally, the special Sabbath arrives, and the family joyfully places the $100 in the offering plate.
That afternoon they are surprised by a knock on the door. As you have probably already guessed, it is the pastor, who, very pleased with the generosity of his congregation, offers them the sum of that week’s offering. A total of $132.50.
I know this isn’t our church. Over the last few years I have seen the faithfulness of our church family exceed all expectations. But speaking personally, there are times when I can see myself as part of that small congregation and I am so thankful for a God who constantly works on my heart. And I am sure the family in the story found a way to re-donate the money. Because once you have felt it, you don’t want to lose the joy of giving.