Psalm 10; Luke 21:1-4
October 11, 2020
— The Gift of Giving from the Heart
The strangest organ in the human body is the heart – not the brain (that’s the most complex), not the skin (that’s the largest), not the spleen (that’s the most fun to say), and not the appendix (that is the most useless). The strangest organ is the heart. Now why is that?
Your roommate comes home after a grueling and difficult day at work and does not yet know that her goldfish died. You decide to not tell her just now because “you do not have the heart.”
After three years in a pretty serious relationship, your girlfriend runs off with a professional scuba diving pizza delivery person (yes, there is such a thing at the Jules Undersea Lodge in Key West, FL). Needless to say, but I am going to say it anyway, after that breakup you “have a broken heart.”
Obnoxious Aunt Gladys cannot stop poking into your love life and trying to set you up with her best friend’s great-niece from Iowa. She genuinely thinks she is trying to help, but the holidays are coming around, again, so you put on a brave face and say “bless her heart.”
After practicing the biggest speech of your life for 3 years twice a day every day, it is safe to say that you “know it by heart.”
But just before you give the speech, you start to get stage fright and opt for doing it by Zoom over the internet because you had a “change of heart.”
Yet, the speech is a huge hit. You get promoted as the new CEO of a major tech company specializing in online communications. It is the job of your dreams. For all those people who never thought you had it in you, you say “eat your heart out.”
The heart is all over the place. Every one of those expressions is very different. Usually heart language is related to ideas of passion or intent, but it is used in so many crazy ways. Some of them do not even make sense if you really think about the usage. And none of them actually pertain to the literal heart which is really only good for pumping blood throughout the body. Of course, as people experience intense emotion, they might notice their heart beating more obviously and rapidly. I can only suppose that is the reason the heart is connected to passion, but the heart does not give, regulate, or change the passion. It is not really about the heart doing anything. The pronounced beating of one’s heart is the symptom, not the cause of emotion. And yet, we have made that organ the symbol for life itself and the very expression of love.
So what is the heart trying to tell us? It tells what matters most to us. It is the truth teller of the body. Again, we are not talking the literal heart, but because the heart is a metaphor for what we love and for what is most important, what the heart feels is what must be true to us. If I believe in my heart that the best days are to still come, then I can have a pretty optimistic view of things and be hopeful. On the other hand, if I believe in my heart that someone is trying to get me and do me harm, then I will be consumed with paranoia and watchfulness. The heart shows us our truth as best we know it – it may or may not be objectively true, but it is true to us.
Take Psalm 10 for example. This is a very interesting psalm in that it mentions the heart so many times in one place and it refers to the heart of both the wicked and the oppressed. There is the heart of the evil people speaking what they believe is true – there is no god, at least no god who cares or who will do anything. Without the worry of God, they are freed to seek their desires without fear. They abuse the poor and take advantage of the needy. Honestly, there is still a lot more like this going on in the world today – without any fear of accountability.
The heart of the poor, the oppressed, the person in crisis cries out to God for help, but their heart wonders if God still cares or if God will do anything to help. All of this internal dialogue is expressed in the heart. And in the middle, you have the psalmist speaking all of this from his heart: Rise up, O God; do something! Stick up for the person being crushed! Don’t let the evil get away with this. The heart of everyone makes their claims of what matters to them.
And the psalmist responds in a way with God’s heart, “You DO care!” You do see what’s going on and will do something about it. Until justice comes, though, strengthen their hearts. Give them more faith in you. That’s what matters to the heart. In the heart is our honest self. It speaks our true feelings.
You have all probably heard the great yard sale aphorism, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. This is probably pretty close to gospel. When I was a little guy (as if I was ever little), I was playing back behind our house in the outskirts of Fountain Inn, SC, back in the woods where we had a vine we could swing over the creek back there. One day, I found a strange wooden object half-buried in the creek. I had never seen anything like that in my life. It somewhat resembled a lantern because it had these holes all around it across the middle and bigger holes on each end. Of course, the piece of trash was not really worth anything to me then. I could not really play with it, and it was in very distressed shape. Only years later did it occur to me that it was a hub to a wagon wheel. I can only imagine that someone lost their wheel in the creek many, many years before, at least the wheel hub. What an amazing and fantastic find to me – a marvelous link to a history that I had never seen. I so wish that I had understood how interesting that discovery was at the time. It would have meant so much more to me.
We have all probably had those experiences where someone was throwing away something or at least selling something very cheaply that was really interesting or meaningful or worth keeping ourselves. The object is the same, but how much it matters to us can vary and change dramatically depending on the person. One of the most beautiful stories of this is the Paraguayan Junkyard Orchestra where a group of young people in a village built on a junkyard made instruments with the help of a music teacher, and they have created a whole orchestra and travelled the world to show us all what beautiful treasure can be created from trash. Obviously, the gift of music matters to them. It is deep in their hearts.
When we give out of our faith, what we are really giving is not about values or dollar amounts or percentages; it is about giving what’s in our hearts. An offering, a true offering, is about giving your heart to the love of Jesus and the work of God.
The most famous act of giving an offering in the New Testament, the passage I read from Luke sometimes called the “Widow’s Mite,” is the best example of this. All the big gifts were pouring into the Temple. This was the social and religious expectation. How many of those people were giving from the heart, though? I think it is safe to say that none of them were, especially given Jesus’ commentary. That gave a lot but they also had a lot. They could spare the gifts and continue living as they were out of their abundance. They missed the point of the offering. It is about giving what matters to you, not what’s left over.
The widow, on the other hand, got the point of giving. It is not even about how much she gave – the two coins together were worth the smallest Roman coin in circulation or the same as about 6 mins of manual labor. It is about what those coins represented. They were her heart.
It is a crazy, ridiculous gift. She gave all she had. What would happen to any of us if we gave all our money away – not even all our possessions, just the money? Can you begin to imagine what it would be like to have absolutely NO money? You would be powerless.
That is the point. The woman, the widow, was giving away her power and control – she was giving her very heart to God. The treasury did not need her two coins, but God certainly wanted her heart. This is the way she was going to show that love for God. Her offering was the offering of the heart that proved her love and how she put her life completely in God’s hands.
Generally, followers of Jesus are much less willing to give the Lord their heart. We say we do and sometimes we act like it, but generally speaking, we are much more comfortable giving a little bit of our hearts, the parts we don’t use so much, the parts that we can easily afford to give away. But is that really how the heart works? Can you genuinely divide your heart? Jesus says we cannot serve two masters. A heart divided will never be wholly devoted to anything. That is not the heart that our Holy and Heavenly Father wants.
Right now, we are preparing our hearts for how we are going to give in 2021. I have no idea how you have given your hearts in the past, but I know that we need to give what is important to us, to give our lives, all of it in service to our Lord. As far as our money goes, that can represent our hearts, as well. Whatever our gifts may be, I simply ask that you consider giving out of full love and devotion to God. Give from the heart first and your gift will be the joy of God and the blessing of our neighbor.
To God be the glory. Amen.