By Matt Mattos*
“And he said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’” Luke 21:3-4
I remember sitting down to eat lunch with a pastor and his family in Myanmar and the table was abounding with food and even had a liter bottle of Coke on it. This pastor took in children from the street and to say their funds were limited would be an understatement. Their living condition would not be for the faint of heart and yet here I sat as though at a feast. To buy that Coke required sacrifice that you and I don’t really understand, but they wanted to honor their guests and the smiles of their faces could not deny the joy present at the table. It was a humbling experience because I honestly couldn’t remember a time in my own life that I had given so much so joyfully.
It’s interesting because I started noticing this scenario repeat itself in different cultures. Across the world it seems that people who have little often give more. Those who have studied poverty have also documented this and attribute it to a different set of values. When you and all those around you do not have much in material possessions, your values focus on relationships. This explains why we see community-centered worldviews in third world countries.
So how does this affect you? Why should you really care? I would argue that if you’re reading this you are likely in a first world country and therefore your worldview is centered around you.
When we live in an individualistic society, we also live in a consumerist society and so we value acquiring possessions. We don’t even realize how much our desire to have more things hinders our ability to give abundantly because everyone around us is doing the same thing.
We are all so wrapped up in how much we all have that we don’t take the time to value the lives of those we live in community with.
This begs the question - does the all-consuming need to gain ever actually satisfy? I can answer for myself and say that for a brief moment it may bring happiness but never lasting joy. No wonder the rich young ruler left Jesus sorrowful after being told to sell his possessions – just like us, he was under the impression that his many things were the key to happiness.
So why is it hard to give when you have more? The answer is simple and straightforward – we treasure this world. We have a hard time finding value in an unseen world and God. My own heart is easily distracted by the beauty of things I can touch and the success I can attain here and now. So my daily battle is to remember that if my heart is focused on these things, I am likely not focused on Christ and what He has won for me. Once I begin readjusting my worldview to include eternity all of a sudden the things of this world become smaller and their weight much lighter. With an eternal perspective we see more clearly the wealth that awaits us in heaven. By disciplining ourselves to align our desires with those of Christ we can find joy in giving abundantly, for then we understand that what we have has been given to us by our Father in order to bless those around us.
The wealth behind giving is the understanding that what I am giving was never mine to begin with. It’s the assurance that as I give freely and joyfully, the one who gave His life for me won’t leave me in need. When that’s the truth we cling to, the hope of heaven is what fills our hearts and no earthly possession can compete with that.
*Matt Mattos is the Executive Director and Founder of World Nations International