Summary: Things are not always as they appear. Little can be much, and much can be little. The Lord knows the desires of our hearts and the motivation behind our gifts.
An Abundant Gift
Mark 12: 41-44
This had been an eventful day for Jesus and the disciples. Having returned to the Temple in Jerusalem for the third time, Jesus had dealt with several confrontations. He was challenged regarding His authority; the Pharisees and Herodians sough to trap Him with a question about paying taxes; this attack was followed immediately by the Sadducees raising a question concerning His teaching on resurrection; and finally, one of the scribes asked Jesus about the greatest commandment. Having dealt with this barrage of questions, Jesus asked those present in the Temple what they thought of Him and who they considered Him to be.
Surely you would agree that Jesus must have been tired and a bit frustrated with the attitudes and accusations of many He encountered within the Temple. Finding a moment of reprieve from His accusers, we find Jesus seated within the Temple complex near the treasury. This too will prove to be an eventful moment for the disciples, as Jesus will use the events that transpire to teach a valuable lesson to them.
As we consider the principles Jesus revealed within the text, I want to discuss: An Abundant Gift. The outcome of this encounter is not what the world would expect.
I. The Observation of Jesus (41-42) – While seated within the Temple in the area of the treasury, Jesus made several observations. Consider:
A. The Situation (41a) – And Jesus sat over against the treasury. This may seem an insignificant detail, but it is quite interesting when considered in the context of the events of that day. The treasury was not located within the main Temple area. He would have walked up a set of stairs that led away from the terrace in front of the Temple, into the area known as the Court of the Women. The treasury was located within this area of the Temple complex.
While the text does not specifically say, it does appear that Jesus had grown weary of the many confrontations and sought a place of solitude within the Temple complex. Apparently, He desired a moment of rest, with no one else but the disciples. Again, we get a glimpse of the humanity of our Lord. He too grew tired and weary, seeking a place to rest and clear His mind. We experience such moments as well, needing a place to get away from the distractions of life and rest for a while.
B. The Perception (41a) – And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury. As Jesus sat within the treasury area of the Temple, He watched as those who came cast their money into the treasury. These offerings were not taken in the same manner most American churches receive offerings. According to John Phillip’s commentary, there would have been thirteen, trumpet shaped boxes along the wall of the treasury area. Each of these boxes would have had an inscription that revealed the purpose of the gift and where it was to designated within the offerings. Nine of the boxes were for legal dues, such as the temple taxes, and four of them were for voluntary offerings.
Jesus sat there, purposely observing those who placed their money within the boxes. I have read accounts of some who believe these were likely made of brass. As the coins were cast into the trumpet shaped boxes, they would clang against the sides as they slid down the side of the trumpets. Quite possibly, those who sought to recognized for their giving would have thrown their offering into the trumpets with force, in order to make enough noise to be recognized for their giving. No doubt Jesus is aware of their gifts and the motivation behind their giving.
The principles we see in this setting remains today. While we don’t give our offerings in brass boxes, and most give checks or paper currency, the Lord knows the motivation behind our giving. No doubt some that day gave happily, while others gave grudgingly. We are expected to give with a pure heart, happy to support the Kingdom work, and do so without fanfare of man’s recognition. 2 Cor.9:7 – Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. Matt.6:2-4 – Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:  That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.