Robert Fulghum, who wrote All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, says that he placed alongside the mirror in his bathroom a picture of a woman who is not his wife. That's risky business! Every morning as he stood there shaving, he looked at the picture of that woman.
The picture? The picture is of a small humped-over woman wearing sandals and a blue eastern robe and head dress (sari). She is surrounded by important-looking people in tuxedos, evening gowns, and the regalia of royalty. It is the picture of Mother Teresa, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize!
Fulghum said he keeps that picture there to remind him that, more than a president of any nation, more than any pope, more than any chief executive officer of a major corporation, that woman has authority because she is a servant.
In 1970, a man by the name of Malcolm Muggeridge went to Calcutta to do a special documentary on Mother Teresa for the BBC-TV. Muggeridge then was Europe's Tom Brokaw.
Well, on that fated morning of their meeting (a morning that would change him the him for the rest of his life) he met her as she was working out in the streets with sick and poor people in a ghetto like he had never seen before, amid stench, filth, garbage, disease, and poverty that was just unbelievable. But what struck Muggeridge more than anything else, even there in that awful squalor and decadence, was the deep, warm glow on Mother Teresa's face and the deep, warm love in her eyes. "Do you do this every day?" he began his interview. "Oh, yes," she replied, "it is my mission. It is how I serve and love my Lord." "How long have you been doing this? How many months?" "Months?" said Mother Teresa. "Not months, but years. Maybe eighteen years." "Eighteen years!" exclaimed Muggeridge. "You've been working here in these streets for eighteen years?" "Yes," she said simply and yet joyfully. "It is my privilege to be here. These are my people. These are the ones my Lord has given me to love."
"Do you ever get tired? Do you ever feel like quitting and letting someone else take over your ministry? After all, you are beginning to get older." "Oh, no," she replied, "this is where the Lord wants me, and this is where I am happy to be. I feel young when I am here. The Lord is so good to me. How privileged I am to serve him."
Later, Malcolm Muggeridge said, "I will never forget that little lady as long as I live. The face, the glow, the eyes, the love-it was all so pure and so beautiful. I shall never forget it. It was like being in the presence of an angel. It changed my life. I have not been the same person since. It is more than I can describe." By the way, after Malcolm Muggeridge made those comments, Mother Teresa continued to serve in that sacrificial way until the end of her life nearly twenty-seven more years.
Obviously, we can't all be Mother Teresa, but we can all live in that spirit. In our own ways, we can all learn to give. It has been called the story of the widow's mite. We are all familiar with this event in the life of our Lord in which a widow gave all the money that she had in an offering in the Temple and thereby received the praise of the Master of Life himself. The story is generally perceived to be one about giving and clearly that element is there. In terms of the actual amount that she gave it was a mere penance. Less than one penny in today's money. The extravagance in it was that it represented all that she had.
But there is another element to this story that perhaps we fail to see. Jesus had just been watching the Pharisees in their giving practices. Now, we are talking big bucks. And they were quite open about their giving. Everyone knew their giving record; indeed, they made a point that everyone knew it. It was in the light of that that Jesus pointed out this widow. Picture Jesus sitting now with the leaders of the temple--the Sadducees--observing the people as they come in and watching their donations. There is no paper money so it all makes a terrible noise as it rolls down this long horn shaped object and falls into the pool of coins. So here comes this little old lady and she has two small coins worth nothing and drops them in.
They barely make a noise. You can almost see the Temple leaders as they roll their eyes and hope for better results with the next person who walks in the door. Jesus then calls his Disciples over and says, "This poor widow has put more in to the treasury than all the others." To the Sadducees this woman is a waste of time but to Jesus she is the stuff by which Kingdoms are erected. Thus, at its heart, the widow's mite is not a story about giving, it is a story about motivation. Why do we do what we do? What do we hope to achieve by our giving? The Pharisees and Sadducees gave to receive peer recognition. And, said Jesus, they received their reward. People praised them. The woman, on the other hand, gave out of love for God. According to Jesus, she also received her reward.
For a few moments this morning I do not want to talk about dollar amounts that are given to the church but about motivation. Why do we do what we do? What is the motivation behind our giving?
1. The first motivation for giving is that we give of ourselves.
2. Secondly, your money follows your heart.
Jesus worded it this way: where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
3. The third motive for giving is because it makes God happy.
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