My office at LifeWay is filled with items that are quite meaningful to me.
There’s the photo of my wife, caught mid-laugh with her eyes closed and head tilted slightly back, on our wedding day. It is my favorite photo of her because it catches the essence of the joy that she possesses.
There are the various items I picked-up on mission trips to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. They each remind me of wonderful experiences that God has used in my life.
There are the Cal Ripken, Jr. bobble heads and other items reminding me of my favorite baseball player from when I was a kid all the way into college.
There are the two cases of books – a mere remnant of the books I collected over the years of church ministry before coming to LifeWay – that I continue to use in my role at The Gospel Project for Kids and that I view almost as friends.
And then there are these three items that I cherish most – perhaps more than all of the other items put together:
You’re right. But they don’t just look cheap, they are cheap. All three items put together could probably net me a whopping $10 – and that would be pushing it. Half that would be more likely, but still ambitious.
But you couldn’t have them for any price. To me, they are priceless.
The “#1 Dad” trinket on the left is made of plastic. Thankfully the gold coloring has not started to chip off yet. It probably will at some point, but I hope it doesn’t.
The football trinket on the right seems to be made of glass – certainly it isn’t crystal. It feels too heavy to be plastic. You cannot see it in the photo, but “DAD” is engraved in the pedestal. Simple and to the point.
The LEGO® figure down front is a Chima character. I don’t know much more about him, other than he is a good guy and he has some serious abs for a bird.
So what’s so special about these three objects? You probably have figured it out by now: they are gifts from my oldest son, Joshua.
The two “dad” items were purchased by him at school as part of a Christmas store where the kids could buy gifts for their family members. These were the items he selected for me the past couple of years. If only you could have seen the look of pride on his face as he handed me what he had chosen for me!
Then there is the LEGO® figure. My son LOVES LEGO® – so much so that he wants to be a LEGO® designer when he grows up. He gave me this man a little while ago for no other reason than he wanted me to have him.
These three gifts are priceless to me because they came straight from my son’s heart and I know it. They each are bathed in my son’s love for me and that is why they are treasures in my office.
Sandwiched in the middle of Jesus’ chaotic final week of ministry leading up to the cross and empty tomb is a brief account involving a widow dropping a meager gift into the temple treasury. It is recorded in two Gospels (Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4) and only merits four verses in each. Neither Mark nor Luke offer any commentary; they simply present the exchange and move on. Each account is followed by Jesus foretelling the destruction of the temple and the signs of the close of the age – far more enticing reading.
Don’t let the brevity of the account of the widow’s gift and its seeming trivialness fool you.
This passage is often used to teach faithful, sacrificial financial giving. And that is a valid point to draw out of the account, but that isn’t the main idea the Holy Spirit is showing us here. Remember that all of the Bible is one narrative about God’s grace and glory manifested in Jesus Christ. Jesus is using this woman as a word picture for what He would do in a matter of days – when the Temple would hang on a cross and sacrifice all He had on a much grander scale. Just as the woman’s love for God drew her to give sacrificially, so did Jesus’ love for His Father drive Him to give sacrificially.
I believe Jesus sat down and watched people give that day not because He was tired or bored, but because in His omniscience, He knew that this woman would give her beautiful gift and Jesus wanted to use the widow to illustrate what deep, genuine sacrifice looks like. The sacrifice Jesus has in mind is not just financial – although that is part – but it is sacrifice of one’s life in its entirety. The sacrifice that He was making. The sacrifice that God’s grace compels followers today to make.
Jesus entered into poverty just by taking on the flesh and coming to earth (Philippians 2). The King of kings, the Creator, the Son of God clothed Himself in the rags of humanity – His creation. The God-Man hungered. He tired. He thirsted. And He suffered and died. Jesus had all the wealth in the universe, set it aside to become poor, and then gave up everything He had in that poverty! Jesus’ two copper coins was His very life.
And we are to follow Jesus’ example. We are to sacrifice all – even our very life – out of love and gratitude to our greatest Treasure, Christ Jesus.
As you prepare to teach this Bible story to your kids, have the courage to explore your heart and consider if you are living sacrificially for Jesus. But be careful not to measure that according to how the world measures value! Don’t find comfort in giving 15% of your income. Don’t find comfort in serving an hour a week in kids ministry. Those are great – don’t get me wrong. But that is not the way sacrifice is measured. Sacrifice is measured by your love for Jesus and sometimes that translates to gifts that the world would consider rather…ordinary.
Here’s why this is so important for us to get right. Put yourself in your kids’ shoes for a moment. They probably will relate quite well to the widow because they don’t have money either. Their offering clinks in the plate when it is passed along too. But what we want to help our kids understand is that they have plenty to give to God right now, because they can give to Christ from their hearts. They can love Christ and live sacrificially for Him on the playground. In the classroom. In the home. On the ball field. In the dance studio. Kids can be scandalously generous with their time and resources, as meager as they may seem to the world.
As you teach your kids this week, challenge them and encourage them to really consider how they can sacrifice for Jesus and make sure they do it from the heart. Your kids have something of great value to give to God – themselves.
Here is more help for leaders preparing for the March 22, 2015 session (Unit 31, Session 4) of The Gospel Project for Kids.
Brian Dembowczyk is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to LifeWay in 2014. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Brian and his wife, Tara, and their three children – Joshua, Hannah, and Caleb – live in Murfreesboro, TN, where Brian enjoys drinking coffee and teaching 1-3 graders at City Church.