I’m a small town girl who was recently in New York City for the first time. From the moment I entered the subway station, people started asking me for money. In the time it took me to walk down the steps, four different people had asked me for amounts ranging from four dollars to five cents. Even combined it didn’t total very much, but it was a bit overwhelming to be stopped every few seconds. God loves a cheerful giver—that’s what it says in II Corinthians 9:7—but I wasn’t giving too cheerfully by that point.
In Mark 12:41-44 Jesus watched people putting their donations into the offering boxes. He was not watching because he needed their donations, for after all He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and everything else in all creation. (Psalm 50:9-12) What He was watching for was the attitude with which the donations were being given. He was concerned with the condition of people’s hearts. He knew that it was not the amount they gave, but the amount they withheld that was the measure of their generosity. The wealthy gave a large portion, but it was not a large proportion of what they had. The widow, a member of the poorest and most vulnerable segment of society, gave all she owned. The wealthy depended on their wealth to provide for them, but the widow depended on God. She trusted God to meet her needs. It was not her money that she gave to God, but her heart, her whole being.
When God tells us that he want us to give cheerfully, He means that what is important is the condition of our hearts, our motivation for giving. He doesn’t want us to give because people keep asking, or because we feel pressured by public opinion, or to get a tax rebate. He wants us to give because we love our neighbour as we love ourselves, and because we love Him and trust Him to provide for our every need.