Summary: Jesus celebrates the sacrifice of the giver, not the size of the gift.
Beth and I had the joy of serving at the Fall Festival of Fun on Tuesday night. I’m thankful to Sheila Kuriscak and her team for creating this family-friendly outreach. Our job was to greet people as they came in and give kids bags for all their candy. I would estimate that more than 70% of those who came are not part of Edgewood…yet! Someone has said that the church is the only organization in the world that exists for the benefit of its non-members. That’s certainly the case at Edgewood!
Many of the workers dressed up but we chose not to, though several commented that my face looked like a scary mask! My favorites were the toddlers in animal costumes. This one wins the prize [put up picture of Pip]. Actually, Pip the Lion was not here but is coming this week! Later on I went into the packed gym and discovered that Sheila had turned me into a puppet [show]. This preacher puppet has more hair than I do!
Speaking of what God is doing, check out these pictures of our teenagers from this past Wednesday night. When I saw this on the Edgewood Facebook page, I posted 1 Timothy 4:12: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”
As we unpack our passage we’ll see that Jesus is watching people come in to the temple, not to get some candy, but to give some cash. Some of the givers are wearing masks to hide their motives while one woman worships by giving all that she has. We’re going to learn that Jesus celebrates the sacrifice of the giver, not the size of the gift.
Let’s read Mark 12:41-44 together: “And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all 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.’”
I want to give a disclaimer. I didn’t pick this passage to put pressure on anyone to give or as a means to manipulate you out of your money. It’s simply what comes next in our verse-by-verse exposition of the Gospel of Mark. Besides, we’ve already taken the offering so you’re in the clear.
In order to understand the text, let me remind you of the context. Jesus’ presence in the temple began when he condemned the moneychangers and the sellers and it now ends with his commendation of a widow who sacrifices everything she has. Last weekend we saw how Jesus unmasked the religious hypocrites for their focus on externals. They masqueraded as servants of God when they were actually servants of greed. Remember that He took them to task for “devouring widows’ houses” in verse 40. I wonder if this widow is one of those they had taken advantage of.
Here’s the setting. The “treasury” was located in the court of women, which was the part of the temple where everyone could enter. Commentators point out that there were 13 receptacles in this area, each marked to indicate how the offerings would be used. Nine of these were for what we might call tithes that were used for the temple while the other four were for voluntary gifts that were used for the maintenance of the ministry - wood, incense, temple decorations and burnt offerings. BTW, this is the practice Beth and I follow, along with many of you – we give our tithes to the church and then we give offerings over and above as the Lord leads us.
It was assumed that no one entered the temple without tossing something in the offering. That’s a good word for us, isn’t it? When we gather to worship, we must be prepared to give something. We don’t come just to get or to sit back and evaluate the music or the message. We gather to give to God what He deserves. Psalm 96:8: “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts!” While not everyone can give a lot, everyone can give a little.
Notice that Jesus “sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people put money in the offering box.” The word “watch” does not refer to a casual glance, but rather a concerted gaze. It means, “to perceive; to look closely with careful, attentive and thoughtful observation.” Since this was the Passover season, the population would have swelled by an additional 200,000 pilgrims making their way to the temple.