Betting the Farm Luke 2:1-4

Betting the Farm Luke 2:1-4

The generosity of the poor can offer an example to all of us.

The generosity of the poor can offer an example to all of us.

When I was a struggling graduate student in Chicago, I thought I was poor – really poor. A Bolivian family lived in the one-bedroom apartment down the hall. The young boy slept on a cot behind the dining room buffet. Two girls shared the tiny bedroom, and Mom and Dad had the sleeper sofa.

They ate simply, yet invited me to many meals. They tithed 10% of the top (before expenses) at church. They worked intermittently and very hard, sent money to family in Bolivia, spent all day Sunday at church, and laughed a lot.

In Romania, too, strangers in the street invite me to fish dinners or a glass of palinca. Institutionalized children with nothing open their hands, too. At the meal following Bible Study, each makes sure the rest get enough. No one seems to mind that the grown boys who do dock-work all day get extra bread.

Americans can be generous, too.

When I speak in USA churches, I am most moved by the elderly woman who approaches me quietly after the service, slips a $20 bill in my pocket and whispers: “Use this for a needy child.” Often she is wearing a coat that has known too many winters, or she clearly needs an updated prescription and glasses. She doesn’t color her hair or get her nails done. And yet she gives in faith. She gives for the love of God and the love of neighbor.

Their giving reminds us of Luke 21 (The Message): “Just then he looked up and saw the rich people dropping offerings in the collection plate. Then he saw a poor widow put in two pennies. He said, “The plain truth is that this widow has given by far the largest offering today. All these others made offerings that they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford – she gave her all!” Giving all.  Betting the farm.

Jesus over and over encourages his followers to invest everything in what is most precious to them. Jonathan Hodgins says it well: “In a temple full of theologians and religious followers who hedged their bets and gave some of their wealth to God, one woman boldly went up to the collection plate and laid everything she had down on God. What everyone else assumed was a gamble, she knew was a sure thing. . .  We can hedge our bets and invest ourselves in the various philosophies and attractions of this life, or we can decide that when a sure thing comes along you should bet the farm on it” (in “The Treasure,” Newsletter of The Presbyterian Church of Wales).

My Bolivian friends and the giving women extravagantly bet the farm in faith. Of them, Jesus would say: “They gave by far the largest offering today.”

Lives, time, talents, money – we have so many choices in this season of extravagant giving. What would Jesus say? I think he would say: “Bet the farm. Give more than you think you can afford. Give extravagantly to heal what is broken in the world.”

God’s promises never fail.

As the parable of the loaves and fishes teaches us, when we give, there will be enough. And sometimes it takes strangers, orphans or widows to teach us that…

Blessings to you all in this season of Giving!

Elizabeth Searles is partnered with New Opportunities for Romanian Orphaned Children, Inc.
PC (USA) Mission Co-worker and Global Ministries Overseas Associate,
Common Global Ministries Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
and the United Church of Christ