November 21, 2007
Wangerin, in his marvelous story-bible of the New Testament, through the eyes of Mary (sister of Lazarus), describes what she sees when a woman dropped in her coins at the Temple.
A very old woman had just pulled herself up to her feet. She began to shuffle through the Court of the Women in a direction somewhat slant of us. She pressed a begging bowl in both hands against her stomach. Soon, though she took desperately small steps, we knew her direction, if not her mind: she was moving toward the treasury just to the right of us. As she crept by, I saw her in profile: a long translucent nose; eyelids loose, the low rims sagging from their eyeballs, her mouth working like a Pharisee at prayer. When she reached the treasury she brought forth the begging bowl and turned is slowly over the bell-like mouth, and two tiny bits of metal fell from the bowl into the bronze.
We could hear nothing of the fall.
'Judas, my brother, my bright disciples,' Jesus said. 'Know the difference. Live by it: those rich men who contributed wonderful sums to the Temple were contributing something of their surplus. It never touched their need. But this woman who gave two copper mites—she has given more than ten such notables combined. For she gave all she had. It was everything she had to live on.'
Bonhoeffer's famous line is about the cost required for us to live in Christ. Leadership requires two essential bits of understanding:
Financial return is not the measurement of our service, be it in not-for-profit or business. Trapped by scales of compensation as ways to determine our significance, we get caught in false graphs of our worth. What is a truer computation is the price we pay in service to those with whom we work.
Our regard for others needs a radical turn. As much as the larger sums for operation are vital, our eyes could do with a Jesus-clarity.
This text is an unnerving reminder as I search and ask for millions of dollars to meet Tyndale's multi-million dollar goal.
My loving and truth-revealing Jesus, stressed by relentless requirements to balance budgets, I need to know, as well as my leader-friends, how You assess and judge our service. Keep me from determining my significance as a leader by my association with people of wealth. Help me, God of stewardship, to know that grace in leadership is costly, and give me insight to see that those who give out of their need and not out of their surplus truly understand sacrificial giving. Amen.
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confessional, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ—living and incarnate.