My neighbor asked if I had extra tomatoes. “Sure I do! Of course I do!”
We had reached the time of year when the garden was producing a bountiful harvest but my time to invest in all things garden was considerably less bountiful. For days I had walked past the large box of tomatoes in my mudroom. I know, I know, I’d think each time. I need to make sauce or can or do something with those tomatoes!…But when???
So do I have extra tomatoes she wanted to know?… “Yes! Goodness, yes! Please, take these!”
And she did.
She took them all.
Just like I said she could.
As I stood there holding my now empty box, a strange panic began to churn in my stomach and claw at my throat. I took a deep breath. I tugged at my necklace.
What in the world was wrong with me? All summer long we had gladly shared our garden’s plenty: zucchini, cucumbers, beets, bags of beans, bunches of kale. But this time something was different.
I called out to Bridger, my boy of the harvest.
“Are there any more tomatoes coming, Bridge?”
“Not really, Mom. The plants don’t have any leaves.”
I knew he was right; we were at the end of the tomato harvest. My sudden and intense urge to make salsa just one more time was not going to be realized. I had no tomatoes.
I had just given them all away.
One day Jesus sat in the temple and observed people presenting their offerings. He noted the steady, predictable parade of wealthy people casting great amounts into the collection box. Then He noticed her, the poor, invisible, widow. She slipped in and dropped two small coins into the box. Jesus turned to his disciples:
Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all of 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 12:43-44, ESV )
She gave all she had. She had given all.
Apparently, I don’t do that very often. I give what is extra. I share what is unneeded or can be comfortably spared. When I do dip into the realm of giving all and completely empty a box of tomatoes, the result is a near-panic attack.
As I considered this, a flurry of questions raced through my mind:
Is it wrong to give out of my abundance? To give some and keep some? Or am I supposed to give all? All of what? When? To who? I want to be generous, but…what if I don’t want to? What if I don’t want to give all?
A few verses before the story of the poor widow in Mark 12, Jesus was asked a question. Although the question itself wasn’t about giving all, His answer was.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30, NIV, emphasis mine)
The truth of these words gave my jumbled thoughts a place to slowly untangle, gently pulled apart by the soft tug of love.
Love. That’s it! That is what we are first and foremost called to give. We are to give all our love, wrapped up in all we are, and present it to the One who wove us together in love, died on the cross for us in love, and who is Himself, love.
The beauty and simplicity of this concept takes my breath away. But, I don’t give all I am in love any easier than I give all my tomatoes. Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t merely invite us to follow Him in the hard way of love, He also provides all we need for the journey.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8, ESV, emphasis mine)
The abundant grace of God has got us covered. It doesn’t matter how much we pour out and give and share and release into the world—love, time, energy, money, produce!—we will always have all we need.
So if I desire to avoid a repeat of the tomato incident (and I do), and if I want my white-knuckled grip on things of this world to loosen (and I do), then I must believe that I am indeed held securely in the firm grip of grace and therefore safe to let my love flow freely. That beautiful intersection of love and grace gives way to a generous path, one meant to be traveled with our hearts and hands open wide.
What’s that, you say? You wonder if I have any tomatoes? Sure I do. Take all you want.
For more of Rebecca Levake, find her here: Spring Forth