My primary education was through a private school in Hawaii. It was founded by the Episcopalian church and we had a chapel service one morning a week. During that time in my life, I was not a believer and could best be described as an agnostic. I politely sat through the services but usually my mind drifted off to everything but the message.
But one morning, things were different. I was going through a difficult time at school, everything seemed to be going wrong and I didn’t know how to make things right. As I sat in chapel that morning, a thought struck me. Perhaps I should give an offering and then God would be pleased and solve my problems. So, I opened my wallet and found a $20 bill, a great deal of money at that time and especially for a non-working teenager. I put the money in the offering envelope and quietly said to myself, “Ok God, I’m making a big sacrifice, hope you can help me.”
Although I was not a believer, I had studied the Bible through our mandatory religion classes and I was familiar with the story of the widow and her contribution of two mites, a seemingly paltry sum of money. But Jesus praised her actions and contrasted them with the rich men who made a loud show of donating large sums of money so that everyone else could see how great and generous they were.
And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."
Mark 12:41-44 (ESV)
I expected God to do something good for me since I, too, like the poor widow, had made a genuine sacrifice. But nothing happened. Eventually the problems resolved on their own and I used this experience as further proof to myself that God did not exist.
If I had been sitting in a Buddhist or Hindu temple, a Jewish synagogue, or Moslem mosque, I probably would have made the same offering. I didn’t know God nor did I care to want to know Him. I was hedging my bets and was willing to try anything, even praying to an unknown god. That was my limited understanding of God. If I make a genuine sacrifice, God would honor the effort and answer my prayers.
God does desire sincerity within our hearts when we make an offering to Him. But that is not enough. He desires for us to know who He truly is. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to answer these questions and reveal His magnificence and glory. The years I spent in chapel and religious classes introduced me to His Son, but it was only head knowledge. Until I confessed and repented of my sins and trusted in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, it was just a name, another god that I sought to manipulate for my own gain. Today, He is my God and the only God of this universe, for everyone who places their trust in Him. I serve Him, He does not serve me.
Praise be to God for His grace and mercy to me!
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.