Luke 21:1-4 Just then he looked up and saw the rich people dropping offerings in the collection plate. Then he saw a poor widow put in two pennies. He said, “The plain truth is that this widow has given by far the largest offering today. All these others made offerings that they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all!” (From The Message)
Yesterday, I noticed a new post on the blog of one of the country’s most prominent young pastors. It was entitled “Spurgeon is The Man!”
I like Spurgeon. I really do. I’m a great admirer and I’ve devoted considerable time to reading his sermons and books as well as books about Spurgeon. But this is hardly the first preacher to say, “Spurgeon is The Man!” Spurgeon is an icon- both visually as in print- for many young, restless and reformed pastors. He makes into a lot of sermon illustrations, I’ve noticed, as do a lot of preachers, celebrities and well known people.
Which brings me to something Jesus does that has become very real to me over recent years, and that is Jesus saying “Look at this little, unknown, obscure person. Look at this ordinary person, and be like him/her.”
In Luke 21, Jesus says “See this old woman? This poor and obscure woman whom no one will ever know by name? Meditate on her. In fact, be like her. She is your example today.”
I have a feeling that this was characteristic of Jesus’ teaching: to point out the very ordinary person as the example; to commend in the person without reputation or notoriety the characteristics and heart of a disciple. Learn from little children, servants, the old, the overlooked. And be willing to become like them as a follower of Jesus.
Make their littleness in this world part of your ambition.
Have you ever heard a well known person talking about doing something ordinary? Every Presidential season at least some of the media look for opportunities to see if the candidates know how to shop at Wal-Mart or pay their own bills. When people perceive that the President doesn’t know how to use an ATM, there is recognition that being well-known takes away some of the reality all of us deal with routinely.
So if you are wealthy, dropping a thousand in the offering plate is a very different thing from dropping in your last two pennies when no one is there to supply any more and no one on earth knows your poverty.
The lives of ordinary people, not the lives of the famous, should be our teachers most of the time.
Jesus says, “Meditate on that person. The unknown giver. The unknown servant. The unknown prayer.”
I’m not devaluing the generosity of the famous. One of my favorite athletes is Ken Griffey, Jr., and he has done many generous, special things for kids that I admire. But while Jesus might point me to Ken Griffey’s generosity, I am reminded that he is wealthy and it is easy for him to give.
What about the person with little, for whom the temptation to hold on to what you have is powerful? What about the person who has had so much taken from them, who has suffered so much, that they shouldn’t have to give anything any more?
Recently, Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia lost one of its elders, an African-American gentlemen of no means, no wealth, no particular education or worldly accomplishment. At his funeral, hundreds attended, and many stood to tell of this man’s friendship, witness and impact on their lives. He was a servant’s servant, and his life had taught thousands about a Jesus shaped spirituality just be observing him. Yet, his name was never on a book. He was never a famous speaker; never anything other than ordinary. Very ordinary.
Think on such people, Jesus says.
I think about my dad’s faithfulness and zeal in daily private prayer, which no one knew of except those of us who lived with him. I lived in the basement, and every night I could hear my dad praying- for me and for others- in the bedroom over my head.
I think about my mom’s incredible love and generosity toward others. When her own health was declining she still made hours of time to visit and telephone lonely people, just to cheer them up. When we were driving her to the hospital as she was having the stroke that had taken her speech and would take her life in a few hours, she was digging through her purse trying to find money to give me for gas. That was entirely typical of mom, who never spent more than a dollar on herself that I saw, but never let you leave her presence without twenty dollars for gas.
I think about some of my fellow servants where I serve. People who have given 15, 20, 30 and more years to serving young people while making just a few thousand dollars a year. These are people who live in real poverty and whose names will never be known to the world, yet they have served thousands of students in Jesus’ name.
I think of many, many ordinary Christians who served their churches, families and communities for no money, little recognition and all just because it was the right way to live; the way of Jesus.
“Think on these people,” Jesus says. Look at them. The ordinary. The little. Be willing to become like them. Set your ambition to have a servant’s ambition. Set your goals to be obscure in the world’s eyes but big in the eyes and heart of Jesus.
He is pointing them out all around you. Do you see them? What are you learning from them about the way of Jesus.