The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Giving it all up to God

One Sunday morning as my 4- and 5-year-old sons were getting dressed for church, both insisted on bringing their wallets. My 5-year-old, Marion, had a brand new wallet with $1 in it. My 4-year-old had been given his as a birthday present, and in it were a 20-dollar bill and a dollar bill.

We sat through the service, both boys playing with their wallets, anxiously awaiting the passing of the offering plate. As the time drew near, both reached in and pulled out a dollar. The plate approached our pew, and they jumped up with excitement to throw in their money.

As the usher continued down the pews and my children resettled in their seats, my youngest opened his wallet and realized that he still had money—his $20 birthday money. He looked at me and said, "I have more. I didn't give it all." In a hushing and impatient tone, I told him to "hang on to it—you already gave your offering." His disapproval of my reply was obvious as he demonstrated a typical 4-year-old response: crossing his arms with a loud huff.

I sat there beside him, embarrassed that I had stopped him but unsure of how to proceed. Our pastor's sermon was on "sharing our abundance," and I was keeping Trey from giving with his heart. He was 4 and the value of his money meant nothing to him. He was only concerned with how good it felt to contribute. I — the adult — was the one getting in the way. So I whispered to him that if he wanted to give all his money to God, he could go ahead.

But I didn't expect (or intend) that he would jump up and head past the altar, past the pastor and assisting minister preparing communion, and empty the contents of his wallet into the offering plate and proudly head back to our pew. The gasp in the congregation turned into an amused murmur.

The look on his face was one of God's work being done despite our human interference. God used Trey as a means of teaching me the true meaning of giving it all up to God. 


Ronald Marshall

Ronald Marshall

Posted at 6:06 pm (U.S. Eastern) 2/5/2013

Thanks to Rebecca for her story about her son Trey's enthusiasm in giving all that he had to the Lord! It is truly fascinating and consistent with the cheerful giving longed for in 2 Corinthians 9:7.

I wish, however, that Rebecca's essay was twice as long so she could fill in some of its holes. For instance: What about her older son, Marion? What did he think of what his little brother had done? Was he also inspired to do the same, or was he humiliated because he didn't follow suite, or did he think Trey was just being silly and unruly? Also: How important was it that "the value of his money meant nothing" to Trey, as Rebecca makes a point to note? Does that lessen the value of his enthusiasm and cheapen the example he gives to those who know the value of a dollar? And what about the tithe? The majority view in the Holy Scriptures is that we are to give only 10% of our income (Deuteronomy 14:22; Matthew 23:23) -- and not all that we have! How does that Biblical teaching fit into this story about Trey, who gave everything away? In their favor, the story of the widow's mite (Mark 12:41-44) seems to go along with what Trey did -- for she also gave away all that she had. But ever since Addison G. Wright's 1982 Catholic Biblical Quarterly article was published on the widow's mite as a negative example, and not a positive one, due to the critique of Corban in Mark 7, that doesn't seem very likely. There is still, however, the case of the young rich man who also was supposed to give away everything that he had (Mark 10:17-22).  Unlike Trey, however, this young man was rich and could easily make up for what he gave away by making more money, which makes him very different from this four year old boy.

So while I like Rebecca's essay for its clear and moving picture of a cheerful giver, it doesn't help much with catechizing the larger church on the weighty problem of sharing our wealth. That's because -- as it stands -- it doesn't provide the answers that we need for the important questions it raises.

Note: Ronald Marshall edited this post at 6:10 pm on 2/5/2013.

Martin Johnson

Martin Johnson

Posted at 6:41 pm (U.S. Eastern) 2/5/2013


What a wonderful story. As I have become older and more practical, and somewhat cynical, I wonder if there is any possibility to once again find the pure open heart of a child giving his all. There is no wonder Jesus holds up the children to be an example for us adults.

I will remember your son as I offer my tithes.


Gary Krumwiede

Gary Krumwiede

Posted at 12:11 am (U.S. Eastern) 2/5/2013

This is a story about a boy…A nice story about a caring and giving good boy…

It does not need others biblical interpretations or added questions...

Yet Ronald Marshall feels compelled with bizarre commentary of rambling questions and his own biblical interpretations… Sadly that is exactly what is wrong in religion today…

Note: Gary Krumwiede edited this post at 12:18 am on 2/5/2013.

Kimberly Rapczak

Kimberly Rapczak

Posted at 3:54 pm (U.S. Eastern) 2/6/2013

Somehow, I do not think the Scriptures intend us to limit our offering to God to 10% of our money.   In Matthew, Jesus says:  "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."   (Matt 22:37 & 39)  If, in profligate love for God, we give away every absolute thing which God has loaned to us---including the contents of our wallets---would Jesus condemn us, or would he protect us from criticism, as when he told Judas not to criticize the woman who poured out the pound of nard on his feet? Would that we all, like the little boy, gave joyfully of everything we have, trusting that God would provide for us like the lilies of the field.   I wonder how different the world would look then.

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