Mark 12:41-44 41 Jesus went over to the collection box in the Temple and sat and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. 42 Then a poor widow came and dropped in two pennies. 43 He called his disciples to him and said, "I assure you, this poor widow has given more than all the others have given. 44 For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has." NLT
It was a simple jar of honey, given to me after I had preached at a local church. Such a simple gift, but given in love. Love for God and the desire to bless those who minister in Christ’s name. In America a jar of honey would be an unexpected gift to a visiting preacher. You might expect a check, a handful of cash, or perhaps an invitation to a local restaurant for an after church meal, but not a jar of honey. In Russia such a gift is not unusual, but I hope I never take such a gift lightly.
Like the widow mentioned in Mark 12:41-44, the young woman, who gave me the jar of honey, gave a gift out of her relative poverty. It was a gift more to God, than to me, and I accepted it as such. This jar of honey would probably sell for nearly $10.00 in the local market. That is the average daily wage of a worker in Russia. Honey is a luxury that many families here cannot afford, yet it was given to me, an American, who compared to most Russians has a huge salary. I was humbled and honored to accept this gift.
This jar of honey reminded me of so many more gifts of this nature that we have received. The gift of friendship is probably the best one. A young woman, who has helped us over and over again said to us, “Well that is how one treats strangers when they are in your country!” How profound. Then there was the time we were invited to tea with a local grandmother. She lives in a small apartment near us. Almost everyday we see her outside selling her vegetables or flowers from her garden. She baby-sits to supplement her meager pension. Yet, because we say hello to her whenever we see her, she has become our friend. When we went for tea she insisted that we take home two large jars of pickled vegetables. The fruit of her labor, given to us in love.
Another family gave us a jar of home grown vegetables after visiting their church. Just recently, while doing business, we stopped at a small indoor kiosk to purchase a pad of paper. The vendor realized we were from America and quickly pulled her 2005 calendar of her desk and said “here, I would like to give you something, I’m sorry it is almost used up, but I just want to give you something”.
Russians are a giving people, even though they often have little to give
It is easy to give a gift out of our wealth, but so much better to give a gift out of our need. At the same time, as one who receives such gifts, it is frightening to be responsible for them. How do we respond when we have so much and the giver has so little? As “faith” missionaries, Karen and I are supported by the gifts of others. It is a difficult lesson to learn how to graciously receive a gift. How hard to just say, “Why thank you so much!” We always want to repay the person by giving something in return. This is often the way we respond to God’s grace. He gives it to us freely, paid in full, by Christ. We try and repay God or earn what He freely gives. Our response should be one of thanksgiving for His wonderful mercy.
Rom 6:23 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. NLT