By Chelsea Bretzke
Following Christ has always included sacrifice and as Latter-day Saints we strive to live consecrated lives. But how do we gauge whether we are truly giving our all?
I think the combined accounts of the rich young man, Zaccheaus and the widow’s mite teaches us that we don’t— at least on our own. I believe that one of the great gifts of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is his help to see ourselves and our hearts clearly.
Sister Chieko Okazaki, in her book “Being Enough” says, “We usually praise the widow for her sacrifice: that she gave everything, putting her own life in jeopardy so she could make a contribution.” She goes on to say that she sees Jesus praise as “a joyous acceptance, even a celebration of her gift. He attested that her offering was not only enough, but it was incredibly generous, unbelievingly abundant. What she had to give was enough and more than enough.” (Being Enough pg. 3).
I decided to go back a bit in the scriptural text to get some context for this brief story.
The chapter before, Luke 19, begins with the story of Zaccheaus- the little rich guy who, “sought to see Jesus, who he was”(Luke 19:3) but was too short, so he ran and climbed a tree.
“And when saw Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and he saw him, and said unto him Zaccheaus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.
And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully” (Luke 19:5-6, emphasis added).
He does as the Savior asks, with joy.
He wanted to see who the Savior was, and what he discovered was a Savior who SAW him, knew him— his name and his heart. The Savior in turn, saw a man willing to do what his Master asked.
But when others saw their interaction they all murmured saying “he was gone to be a guest with a man that is a sinner.” (Luke 19:7)
They couldn’t see Zaccehaus’ heart.
Michele D Craig testifies: “Jesus Christ sees people deeply. He sees individuals, their needs, and who they can become. Where others saw fishermen, sinners, or publicans, Jesus saw disciples; where others saw a man possessed by devils, Jesus looked past the outward distress, acknowledged the man, and healed him.”
Zaccheaus tells Jesus he gives half of his riches to the poor. How does Jesus respond? Does he say, “Well that’s not enough! There’s a widow who has much less than you and she gives everything, you should too”? After all, isn’t that what he asked of another rich young man? (Luke 18- the chapter just before)
Elder Bruce C.Hafen taught of that account : “The rich young man had given almost everything. When the Savior told him he must sell all his possessions, that wasn’t just a story about riches” He then emphasized this powerful truth: “We can have eternal life if we want it, but only if there is nothing else we want more.” (The Atonement: All for All
I believe if Christ looked at Zacchaeus and said, go sell it all, he would have. I think Christ already knew he had Zaccheaus' heart. And Zaccheaus knew too.
Elder Hafen continues: “...we must willingly give everything, because God Himself can’t make us grow against our will and without our full participation.”
Willingness is the key, remembering Christ sees us deeply. We may say we are willing to give our all, but He knows what we would hold back. He knows the answer to the question to what we lack yet. Asking him is more effective than trying to answer that question from our own sense of failure, shame, or comparison— especially when we tend to swing between the temptation to justify or else over demand mortally- impossible perfection.
In contrast, the Spirit always knows the next honest step.
“The Holy Ghost” Larry R. Lawrence clarified “doesn’t tell us to improve everything at once. If He did, we would become discouraged and give up. The Spirit works with us at our own speed, one step at a time…” (What Lack I Yet?)
Christ knows how to gently teach us and convince us that what he has to offer- which is everything- is so much better that whatever else it is we are holding onto. He also reminds us that surrendering our minuscule “alls” is only part of the covenant.
Elder Hafen reminds us, “we lack the power to create the perfection only God can complete. Our all by itself is still only almost enough—until it is finished by the all of Him who is the “finisher of our faith.” At that point, our imperfect but consecrated almost is enough.”(The Atonement: All for All
Our imperfect but consecrated almost is enough.
We can give unconsecrated unholy gifts. We can give without a willing heart.
But it won’t have the power to connect us to Christ’s holiest gift.
Which brings us back to Zaccheaus to whom Jesus says , “this day is salvation come unto this house, foresomuch as he also is a son of Abraham (Luke 18:9)
He tells him, you’re in my family, you’re willingness to follow me, to enter into covenant, is enough to bring you home.
Elder J. Devn Cornish related that many “members often ask, “Am I good enough as a person?” or “Will I really make it to the celestial kingdom?”
He then clarifies: “Of course, there is no such thing as “being good enough.” None of us could ever “earn” or “deserve” our salvation, but it is normal to wonder if we are acceptable before the Lord, which is how I understand these questions. “
Then he reminds us: “The only opinion of us that matters is what our Heavenly Father thinks of us. Please sincerely ask Him what He thinks of you. He will love and correct but never discourage us; that is Satan’s trick.” (What a powerful key to discernment!)
He affirms, “Let me be direct and clear. The answers to the questions “Am I good enough?” and “Will I make it?” are “Yes!...The God of heaven is not a heartless referee looking for any excuse to throw us out of the game. He is our perfectly loving Father, who yearns more than anything else to have all of His children come back home and live with Him as families forever. He truly gave His Only Begotten Son that we might not perish but have everlasting life! Please believe, and please take hope and comfort from, this eternal truth.” Then He quote Pres. Hinckley as saying, “Brothers and sisters, all the Lord expects of us is to try, but you have to really try!”
I admit when I would hear people say “just try, just do your best” that didn’t make sense to me. What do you mean my best? In my mind, I could always have done better! Wasn’t that a gospel truth- eternal progression? So how on earth could I see my imperfect efforts and think “good enough”? How could I correctly gauge my personal all?
Do you know what I’ve decided? We can’t.
Our mortal minds are so tangled in vacillating between pride and shame, thinking we’re awesome and thinking we’re nothing. One of the great gifts of having a Savior is having the gift to see ourselves as He sees us.
“Perhaps”, Sister Craig suggests, “the most important things for us to see clearly are who God is and who we really are—sons and daughters of heavenly parents, with a “divine nature and eternal destiny.” She echoes what Elder Cornish and many of our leaders, including our prophet Pres. Nelson plead with us to do “Ask God to reveal these truths to you, along with how He feels about you. The more you understand your true identity and purpose, soul deep, the more it will influence everything in your life.”(Eyes to See)
In order to know if we are “doing our best” the Spirit is the best guide.
It can continually be revealed to us. If we’re the rich young man trying to give that piece we hold back, or Zaccheaus, giving half of a lot, or the widow giving all of very little, we will never find peace trying to gauge the acceptability of our offerings by comparing them to others.
Let the Christ through the Spirit invite us, encourage us, ask us to give more. Let us sincerely engage often with ongoing corrections and respond with repentant willing hearts.
There is a difference when I think I lack or if my Savior asks me to grow.
As Pres. Nelson has taught, “Don’t demand things that are unreasonable. But demand of yourself improvement. As you let the Lord help you through that, He will make the difference.”Men’s Hearts Shall Fail Them
He will make the difference. Because when you can’t see— Christ sees you.
If you are making an effort to know Him (climbing trees, asking), He will tell you when and how you need to give more, and also confirm when you have given all you are in this moment capable of giving.
When its’ your widow’s mite— you're enough.
How grateful I am to have the Savior helping me in the process. I know he knows my heart and yours.