One of my favorite Bible passages involves the woman described in Luke 21:1 and Mark 12:41. The background of this passage is that Jesus had been tested by a couple of “gotcha” questions from scribes and Sadducees, and His answer shamed them in front of the people and angered them. Jesus then goes on to warn His disciples, in front of the people, to beware of the Scribes, who will receive greater damnation. Why? Because they love their prestige and power; they make long prayers for show; but they do not take care of the widows.
In other words, they talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
Jesus then went to sit in the temple, by the treasury. According to the Blue Letter Bible, this is where the Jewish people contributed towards providing what was needed in the temple and supporting the poor.
As Jesus and His disciples watched, wealthy people came and put in great sums of money. Then a widow came and put in two small coins. Jesus pointed out to His disciples that, while her contribution was small, it was significant because she put in all the money she had.
I get some major warm fuzzies as I think about this woman who sacrificed her very living to provide for others. Who could be poorer than she? And yet she put her money in anyway. That is trust in God, methinks.
When I heard that today’s Thankful Thursday topic was “Sacrifice,” she was the first person I thought of.
This being Holy Week, of course I am thankful for the sacrifice that our LORD made on the Cross. This allowed me (and others) a life we would never have, and the ability to relate personally to a Holy God. . . a great sacrifice for a priceless treasure.
But I need to share about some other sacrifices from which I have benefited.
My parents divorced when I was 12 and after that we had lean times, financially and emotionally and physically. Many situations and events during this time impacted my life deeply, and affect the way I live my day-to-day life and how I act towards my husband and my children and parents and siblings. Many of these experiences were negative, and yet there were positive ones also.
I vividly remember the Christmas that the Baptist Church ladies in our tiny town brought boxes of gifts, food, and a real tree for my family. I was the oldest of the children and I got to sit and talk with these women for a few minutes. One described the difficulty of her life, many years ago, as a newly divorced mother (in a day and age when few parents divorced.) There were people in her life who rallied around her family and provided for their needs. She decided at that time that when she back on her feet she would give back by helping others. And there she was, in my living room, “giving back” to my family. I was touched by their generosity and decided that someday I would also give back by helping others.
This was the year that I found a red quilt under the tree for me. Made with scraps of discarded clothing, this quilt was a treasure to me. I still have that quilt; nearly 2o years later it is threadbare and holey, yet I cannot bring myself to throw it out because it is a reminder to me of my decision. (Yes, I know I should take some pictures of it and throw it out. . . move on and beat the packrat tendencies. . .)
Sadly, as I grew into adulthood, it seemed that I found myself wanting to help, to give, to benefit others, but I couldn’t spare the time or money to do so. I was very willing to help, but not so willing to sacrifice. It is not a sacrifice if I give from my excess. I am realizing that nothing that I give, to anybody, will be of any use unless it involves my sacrifice.
As I look back I realize that what has been given to me was usually not given from excess but out of sacrifice, that the person who gave to me then had less for themselves and their families. And yet, they still did it. And it makes me thankful on a whole new level.
For example, there are the people from our church who gave up their time and energy to help us move when I was 8 months pregnant with our thirdborn calf. A small band of ladies cleaned our new house, moved boxes from old house to new, and cleaned our old house. A group of men loaded up heavy things at the old place and unloaded them at the new place. I am sure they would have rather spent their spare time doing other things besides climbing up to wash the upper cabinets (all the while insisting that I sit down and not overexert myself!), and bending over to clean the toilet and the floors, and carrying in book cases and beds and a filing cabinet. Back breaking, disgusting work. You should have seen the dust bunnies under the beds!
Then there were the folks who made room at their table and in their heart for me, who seemed to be glad I was there and were willing to guide me along when I was searching for myself. I’ve already talked about Aunt Mel and Uncle Ben, who sacrificed their house and privacy and time and money to give me a chance at moving on with life.
When our kids were exposed to chicken pox this January, I was remembering my own experience with chicken pox. I was in fifth grade and the pox was going through my school. I broke out with chicken pox on the morning of the school spelling bee, which I had been preparing for several months. Mom figured that it would be OK for me to go to school anyway, since the pox had been going around school anyway. So I went to school and competed in the spelling bee and mom was their (probably with my pre-school-aged siblings) to watch me in the audience.
I understand now that this took an incredible sacrifice on her part. Knowing as I do now (as a mother with pre-school-aged children) how hard it is to keep them occupied and quiet during events for which they must be kept occupied and quiet. Knowing the love and attention that goes into caring for sick children (most recently the chicken pox, but colds and coughs and fevers previously.) The lack of sleep that comes from having infants. Despite her mistakes and faults, Mom truly sacrificed a lot for us.
Dad believed that the best thing he could do was to financially provide for our family. So when he got a better job, we moved across the country from the big city, where we were surrounded by relatives and friends, to a tiny town where we knew nobody. And even after the divorce, he was still focused on providing for our physical needs as best he could by moving for a different job. All these decisions led to some horribly difficult times, and yet there were great blessings there as well. And it all adds up to make me who I am today.
Today I am thankful for the sacrifices of those who have gone before me, for those who have given of themselves for my benefit. This is just a short list! I am inspired now, more than ever, to sacrifice for the best for others.