By Jeanette Levellie
“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6: 3-4, NIV
Rats. I had forgotten to bring my secret offering. As the communion music ended, I opened my purse to find nothing but a wheat-back penny. I’d saved wheat backs for years, hoping to cash them in someday for a large profit. I figured by the time I was 80 my collection would be worth say, 50 cents or $1. My investment savoir-faire amazed me.
It’s not that I begrudge you this wheat back, Lord, I thought. But, what about the deacon who sees me put it in the plate? I’d hate him to think I’m cheap. Plus, he might go home and tell his wife how I put only a penny in the offering. They’d shake their heads at my stingy attitude. You wouldn’t want that to happen would you, Lord? Since I’m the preacher’s wife, I should maintain a little dignity here, don’t You think? Lord?
Several months earlier, the Lord had nudged me to bring an offering whenever I attended church. He didn’t require a set amount. He only asked that I bring something in addition to my tithe, every time.
I thought that perhaps He was trying to teach me to show my appreciation for Him in a tangible way. Or that giving more would increase my love for His people. Yes, that must be it. I generally loved Jesus and His church; it was people who challenged my resolve to walk in love.
But no. He had bigger plans.
The first few weeks, I obeyed with ease. I usually had an extra dollar or two in my wallet. If not, I could rummage around the house before church and find a bill or coin to bring.
My obedience soon grew horns of smugness. I hadn’t told anyone except my husband about my secret offerings. Not only was I giving extra each week, I was giving in secret. Wow. I impressed myself with my Devotion to the Lord. Until this Sunday.
Lord, I’m the minister’s wife. Won’t I set a poor example putting a penny in the plate?
Still no answer. I sensed my Father was more interested in my obedience than in what Deacon Loy thought of me. I did remember reading, “To obey is better than sacrifice (I Samuel 15:22, NIV).” So I slipped the penny onto the crimson felt and bowed my head, pretending to appear nonchalant.
I’d love to tell you that since that day, one stranger after another has flagged me down on the street to put hundred dollar bills in my hand, or sent me cards bursting with checks. That the bank called to tell us our car loan was paid in full by an anonymous donor. And that someone built us a new home on seven acres of wooded property within an hour’s drive of our grandkids. But that would be a lie.
Instead, I received a greater blessing. A corner of my heart was set free.
You see, I’ve always longed to obey the Lord. Do whatever He told me, without question, without argument, regardless of how I felt. I’d prayed many times, “Lord, give me an obedient heart. Help me follow you. Teach me Your ways.” But I had a chain around my soul. I worried what people thought of me. Especially people in our church. Because we were called to lead them, I secretly believed that what they thought of me was important.
I cared too much for their respect. And not enough for God’s applause. Now He was asking me to toss down my pride by giving him a penny. One cent. It was worth at most, five cents to a coin dealer. Much more to Him who saw my secret motives.
At last, I relented. I let go of the wheat back, and my worry. As the penny landed on the pile of bills, my fear landed at Jesus’ feet, replaced with surrender. A new joy burst into my heart: the joy of obedience.
If I ever become wealthy and the Lord asks me to give it all away, I trust I will obey without a blink. It’s only money, after all. Not worth a cent compared to the offering of an obedient heart.
© Jeanette E. Levellie, 2010, used with permission.
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A spunky pastor’s wife of 30-plus years, Jeanette Levellie is a mother, grandmother, and cat lover. She authors a humor/inspirational column in her local newspaper, and is a prolific writer and speaker. Jeanette has published magazine articles, stories in anthologies, Devotions, greeting card verses, and calendar poems. Jeanette’s debut humor/inspirational book, Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top, published April, 2012, by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Find her mirthful musings at www.jeanettelevellie.com
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