Today’s passage is Jesus feeding the 5,000 through the open-handedness of a boy with five loaves and two fish. The incident is one of three examples of generosity commended in the gospels.
First, this child gives Jesus his lunch. He gives away what he has to stave off his own hunger and watches Jesus ward off the hunger of the crowd.
Second, Jesus points out an impoverished widow who places two cents into the temple offering. A miniscule gift financially, yes, but a huge commitment when measured by what is available to her.
And finally there is Mary, near the end of Jesus’ life, breaking open a jar of perfume to anoint Jesus in an extravagant display of devotion.
Three distinct occasions. A total of five loaves, two fish, two cents, and a jar of perfume. When we give to meet the needs around us as the boy, in ways that represent sacrifice as the widow, and that reflect deep devotion as Mary, we give in a purity of motive noted by Jesus.
When money becomes a means of the heart, it is good. But when money becomes the pursuit of the heart, life gets warped.
Paul reinforces that perspective by lifting up the Macedonian Christians. He commends them for taking up a special offering for the impoverished Christians in Jerusalem. In encouraging the Corinthians to follow their example, he says “they gave themselves first to the Lord.” In other words, when we keep God God in our lives, money remains money.
Like the boy, what is the need of the crowd literally all around you? God has given you something in hand to make a difference.
Like the widow, are you giving at a level that demonstrates sacrifice? In God’s economy, giving in sacrifice is valued more than giving from abundance.
Like Mary, have you ever given extravagantly to tangibly express the depth of your gratitude and devotion? There are those rare times when the value of a gift does communicate how we value the other party.
You know, money has little utility of its own. Take a loonie. You can’t wear it. You can’t eat it. It won’t protect you in the rain. What gives money its value is what it can be exchanged for. What can be more valuable than exchanging it for the work of the Kingdom of God?