Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Sacrificial Gift

Does it ever amaze you how a Bible story that you have read probably a hundred times before will suddenly jump out at you and you will see something you've never ever seen before? Same words as the last one hundred times, but this time, they seem to say something so different to your heart? This has been my experience with the story of Hannah. Perhaps it's because this is the first time I'm reading the story as a mom, or maybe because I'm really trying to take my time as I read through the Bible chronologically. (Fell off the reading program wagon months ago when Ellie arrived early...so now I just go at my own pace...slow and steady, right?!)

So often when we hear the story of Hannah we are reminded of the following lessons: Hannah prayed diligently (1 Sam 1:9-18)--don't give up hope; keep praying! Hannah kept her promise to God (I Sam 1:24-28)--keep your commitments. Hannah praised and thanked God for his blessing (1 Sam 2:1-11)--we should always be thankful when God answers our prayers. These are excellent and valuable lessons that we can learn from the life of Hannah, but this time when I read the story I was smacked in the face with the reality of the depth of her offering to God.

Hannah gave God her most valuable treasure, her child. You might say, "She gave her everything." Can you imagine? As I hold my precious Eleana tight in my arms, I cannot imagine the emotions that Hannah had to be going through. She must have really lived every day with purpose during those approximate three years she had her precious son in her arms knowing that it would soon be a beautiful memory. But she was more committed to God  than she was interested in how she felt or what others thought she could afford to give. This seems to be a foreign concept to modern Christianity where it's all about how we feel and what makes us happy. I bet Peninnah (her sister wife) thought she was insane knowing how Hannah had desired a child; maybe even her husband Elkanah disagreed with her desire to fulfill the promise she made to God. We don't know, but we do know her story is recorded in 1 Samuel as a testimony to her faithfulness and sacrificial giving to God. This reminds me of another story in Luke 21:

And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury [poverty] hath cast in all the living that she had.

Does that challenge you the way it challenged me? These two women gave sacrificially to God. They literally gave everything. And God thought it an important enough lesson that He included it in Scripture for us. Hannah gave her son. The widow gave her living, leaving her even more desolate than she was when she arrived at the temple. Can you imagine? Is your heart so dedicated to Christ that you give sacrificially to Him? Or do you throw a small token in the offering plate on Sunday, donate two hours to him on a Sunday morning, really stretch yourself and pick up a canned good for the food pantry? Wow. God must really be impressed with our giving! (insert eye roll) You know, the God who gives us everything we have, including the breath we breathe? How pathetic we must be to our Heavenly Father (who, may I remind you, gave His most cherished treasure for us, Jesus Christ)! 

The Bible praises Hannah and the widow for their sacrificial giving, and He condemns those that gave little out of their abundance. "Little out of their abundance" sounds like American Christians, doesn't it? He's not interested in the dollar amount we give, he's interested in the heart behind the gift. Hannah's heart was so dedicated to the Lord, she gave her child to the temple (to be raised by a man~can you imagine doing that, ladies?! lol) The widow's heart was so captivated by her Heavenly Father that she sacrificially gave of her feeble means. Yet, we begrudgingly throw our 10% in the offering plate or think we are doing God some great favor because we gave Him some money. Sacrificial giving doesn't have to be financial, Hannah's wasn't. But, it would be a really great place for us to start, don't ya think?

What happened to these women following their sacrificial offerings? Well, Hannah had five more children! Can you imagine her joy?! She gave her sacrificial offering to God and He blessed her abundantly! Samuel is considered the greatest judge of Israel; can you imagine her pride of being the mother of someone so greatly used by God? The Bible doesn't indicate what happened to the widow, but knowing the character of our Father, I think I can safely submit the theory that her needs were fully met after she walked out of the temple that day. I can't help but think about the thrill in their hearts when God faithfully blessed their gifts.

These two Biblical examples have challenged me to examine my giving to God. Am I offering Him token gifts or sacrificial gifts? Am I content to give my time, money, and treasures only when it's comfortable? Or am I willing to give in a way that causes me to sacrifice the things I cherish? What about you? I've heard the phrase, "you can't out give God" so many times in my life, but I believe it's true. The compilation of all your earthly worth and assets cannot begin to compare to the God who owns all and created the universe. Do you think the widow thought she was giving some big, extravagant gift to God? I doubt it! I envision her sneaking into the temple and trying to slip her small offering in while being as invisible as possible (just my imagination of course). But Jesus didn't praise the many who were giving what they were comfortable giving, He praised the widow who probably gave, financially, much less, but spiritually much more.

Do we have the faith of Hannah and the widow to give sacrificially to the Savior who gave His very life for us? I'm challenged as I ponder this question today...