How Much Do You Have (to Give)?

Jan. 14, 2014 • Posted in Blog

4607902692_a54aa344b3Some time ago I was educating myself about what local organizations are doing to help end sex trafficking and assist its victims. Almost every group I encountered had web pages that described what average Joes and Janes like me can do to participate in the effort. I came across one group that places (as many do) a high value on prayer. Pray, I thought—I can do that. I read on. This group has organized prayer meetings that meet monthly—wonderful. I kept going. These monthly meetings are all-night marathons, sundown to sun up.

I have to confess: my stomach fell when I learned that detail. A monthly, all-night commitment to prayer for a particular need is beyond my experience, beyond my comfort zone. Could I do it? Physically, probably yes (even though I’ve never, ever pulled an all-nighter for any reason). Practically, I’m sure I could arrange to get away from home for a night. Did I want to? The truth was, I didn’t.

This was an ugly truth staring back at me from my computer screen. I wanted to help, but not like that.

The hook released me when I discovered that the site was not local, but some 1500 miles away from home. But the discomfort stayed with me. What’s one night of sleep in exchange for the value of these young women—some younger than my own daughter—who are caught up in years of waking nightmares? My reluctance shamed me, even as I found other things I could do.

To be clear, I don’t believe in being “guilted” into service. I don’t think every person is suited to every task in every cause. Not everybody who has read my recent blogs on human trafficking will feel compelled to do anything about it, and that’s perfectly fine (though I hope those who don’t are occupied with activities that improve lives in some other arena).

What challenged me is that I wanted to serve in a particular area. I even wanted to help by praying, but when a particular need was put in front of me, I balked. I thought it might be too much.

When you stand face-to-face with an opportunity to meet a need, is there such a thing as “too much”?

As I pondered this question I was reminded of the story of the widow’s mite (Mark 12). A poor woman gave two coins to the temple treasury while rich folks were making large donations. Whenever I pull this story out of my memory banks, I get it slightly wrong: She gave everything she had, but the rich people were stingy. This isn’t how Jesus framed the event: the rich people gave from their surplus, he pointed out, and there’s no wrongdoing in that. But it’s not hard to share the profits. The poor woman, however, gave out of her poverty and in so doing gave more than anyone else.

This idea of giving out of poverty heartens me (when I remember the story correctly). So often I’m reluctant to give because I think I just don’t have the resources to meet the need. There’s never enough time or money or skill. (Or energy to stay awake all night!) This story reminds that giving generously in spite of what I think I lack is a holy offering. A difficult one, but a holy one, perhaps made holy because it costs something.

Like another widow-mother (1 Kings 17) who fed the prophet Elijah her very last bit of oil and flour, I can trust God to provide what I lack, and take care of my very practical needs too. She feared her son would starve to death. Elijah saved the boy’s life.

God’s provision might even come at the hand of someone else who is giving out of his own poverty. And if I can actually hold that idea in my heart long enough, no gift seems “too much” to give to anyone.

What makes it harder or easier for you to give more than you think you can?


Photo by Thuyt Photography



  • Ian says:

    Erin, such wonderful teaching reflecting your vulnerabilities. I’ve always wanted to do an all night prayer vigil but struggle to do more than hour normally, so how do 8 hours? I’m convinced I will fall asleep.

    “He is strong in our weakness” … but we have to take that first step don’t we to experience the weakness & cry out to Him as we struggle? I live too comfortable a life and I think some of the true wonders are experienced in the “uncomfortable” zone. I want to do that this year – be a bit more uncomfortable and allow God to take hold of my anxiety.

    Thanks again for a thought-provoking post, Erin.

  • erin says:

    Creature comforts can stand between us and God, can’t they, Ian? Thank you for the reminder to not be ashamed of weakness, because God is greater than it.

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