Summary: We continue looking at the astounding mathematics of grace by looking at a widow's very small offering that Jesus says is more than anyone else gave. I also have graphics available.
(Show video of comedian Anthony Griffith talking about hand-me-downs)
That's funny. Hand-me-downs, leftovers; those things are okay I guess if you're talking about old clothes or your mom's cooking. But there are other times when leftovers aren't such a good idea: handkerchiefs, motor oil, maybe your dad's cooking. There's one other area where leftovers aren't any good, stewardship.
I know we all desire to give God our best. That’s why we are here today. You want to start your week off by giving God your best. That’s why we serve in various ministries. We’ve got people who work two jobs, who put in 60-70 hours a week, and yet they find time to serve, and make the ministry of Son-Rise Christian Church possible. That’s why you put money in the plate faithfully every week or every month, even though your budget is tight. That’s why you talk to your neighbors about church. It’s why you share your faith in Christ with those you work with. You want to give God your best.
But sometimes we get discouraged because it feels like we don’t have much to give. Do you feel like sometimes you’re just giving God your leftovers? I know I have days like that. I have weeks like that. I have months like that. I give my best everywhere else. Sometimes, it’s going to good things, just not the best. Sometimes, though, I must confess it doesn’t. I give my best to serve my own wants and desires, and I give God whatever crumbs are leftover at the end.
Do you find yourself giving God your leftovers? Do you find yourself giving God the leftovers of your money? There’s just too much month left at the end of your money. Maybe you’re giving God the leftovers of your time. Like me, you struggle distinguishing between good, better, and best. Maybe you’d like to do a better job sharing your faith, but you give God the leftovers of your relationships.
So how can we make sure we are giving God our best? This is the very core of stewardship. This is the issue that is uncovered in four short verses at the end of Mark 12. It’s offering time at church. The praise band plays a peppy tune hoping to encourage generous giving. The plate is being passed, and Jesus is closely watching what each person puts in the plate. Okay, that's a loose paraphrase, but that is what's happening, only 1st century style.
Around the courtyard of the temple were placed various collection boxes. Each one was designated for a specific purpose. Benevolence fund is here, and building fund is over there, payroll is along that wall, and over here is youth. Jewish worshippers would place their tithes and offerings in these collection boxes when they came to the temple for prayer. Jesus is doing some people watching. He’s watching all of this take place, and he wants to use this as a teaching opportunity for the disciples. Jesus draws their attention to this scene to teach them, and ultimately us something very important about Kingdomnomics. When it comes to giving, God doesn’t measure our gifts by their monetary worth.
Most in the temple made their way to the boxes, quietly and unassumingly dropped in their gift with a scripture quotation or a prayer of thanksgiving. Some of the wealthier worshippers, however, made a great show and display of their giving. All of this was a way of saying, "Look how spiritual I am, how generous. Look how much I give."
In marked contrast to these wealthy performers came a humble widow with her measly little gift. Only two coins! Two bronze coins. Worth only 1/100th of a denarii, valued at only 5 minutes of labor at the going rate.
Yet, Jesus when he gets out his giving calculator says that she gave more than all the others. Huh? What? Jesus do you need to get your eyes checked? Does your calculator need new batteries? Have you read the financial page of the Jerusalem Times lately? Those public schools up in Galilee must really be in bad shape if you think that she gave more.
No, Jesus was not mistaken. Jesus measures the widow’s gift, not by the size of the amount, but by the size of her trust, and the size of her love.
The giving of the others came out of their excess. They will not miss it. It took no measure of love; no step of faith. In fact, their gift could be self-serving. It made a good impression; kept them in good standing in the public's eye. It satisfied any twinge of guilt in their seared consciences. They gave out of their leftovers.
The widow gives out of her need. She will miss it without God's provision. It took tremendous love. Love for God and love for others. It was an incredible step of faith. She was not going to trust her own ability, but in God. No one would notice her gift. No one would applaud her. No one, that is, except for God. But when it comes to giving, is there really any other audience that matters?