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.
Interestingly, the word “put” has the idea of casting or throwing and it’s in the graphic present tense: “are casting.” The idea is that these big givers are standing back and winding up like World Series pitchers as they whip their coins into the coffers [throw a bunch of coins in].
These containers were shaped like trumpets (wasn’t it great hearing the brass ensemble last weekend?) and were made out of metal. The opening was large and it narrowed as it came down to the bottom. That means that large coins would rattle and clamor as they made their way into the boxes [throw more in]. They were giving not for the glory of God but for the attention and applause of others.
1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us that God sees things differently than we do: “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” Let’s hover over this a bit so we don’t miss that Jesus celebrates the sacrifice of the giver, not the size of the gift.
1. Jesus sees who gives. Verse 41 mentions “many rich people” and in verse 42 Jesus sees a “poor widow.” How does it make you feel to know that Jesus is watching who gives? You may choose to give digitally through our app or on our website or perhaps you put something in the offering plate when it comes by. Rest assured that your pastors don’t know who gives…but Jesus does.
The word “many” has the idea of “multitude” and “rich” refers to “wealthy, lacking nothing.” In contrast, the widow comes not in a crowd, but as a solitary individual, unseen and unnoticed by everyone but Jesus. Widows back then did not have Social Security or welfare. The word “poor” helps us see that she was destitute as the word means, “to crouch and cower like a beggar.”
I love that Jesus sees this woman! No one is “ordinary” to Him. He cares for the little, the least and the lost. Every human being, from conception on, is an image bearer of God with great worth, value and dignity.
Jesus sees who gives and secondly, He sees what we give.
2. Jesus sees what we give. “Many rich people” put in “large sums,” which refers to many coins of all kinds – gold, silver, copper and bronze, which would have made a lot of noise as they were tossed into the trumpets [throw more coins in container].
In contrast, the widow put in two “small copper coins, which make a penny.” Also known as the widow’s “mite,” the word for this coin has the idea of “thin, peeled, scaled down and light.” It was the smallest coin in use among the Jews. Two of these coins were worth 1/64 of a Roman denarius, a day’s wage for a laborer. Their value was next to nothing and they were so light that they would not have made a sound as they went in [gently and carefully put two coins in the container].
When you think about it, this woman had a whole host of reasons not to give. One could make the case that she couldn’t afford to give any amount. If you were to ask her, she would say that she couldn’t afford to not give. It’s fascinating to me that she gave both of these coins. She could have justifiably given one and kept one for herself.
That reminds me of the little boy who was sent to Sunday School with two quarters, one for the offering and the other to buy himself some candy on his way home. As he was walking to church, one quarter fell into the sewer. The boy immediately prayed, “Sorry, Lord. I just lost your quarter.”
Jesus sees how much we give because He is the God who sees everything. A couple years ago a church in Charlotte, North Carolina put on a breakfast for the homeless and then invited them to stay for worship. After the service the offering counters opened an envelope with a dime, a nickel and three pennies in it. Included was this note: “Please don’t be mad – I don’t have much. I’m homeless.” Instead of being mad, this makes Jesus glad!
Jesus celebrates the sacrifice of the giver, not the size of the gift. He sees who gives and what we give. That leads to the third thing that Jesus sees – He sees why we give.
3. Jesus sees why we give. We observe in verse 43 that Jesus transitions to a teaching time with his disciples: “And He called his disciples to Him…” This is a strong word that means, “to bid to come.” In order to mark this moment He says to them, “Truly, I say to you…” When Jesus says, “truly,” we better pay attention. This is a transliteration of the Hebrew word, “Amen” and is often translated as “verily, verily.” It has the idea of “assuredly; listen up.” He’s about to say something so radical that He doesn’t want them, or us, to miss it.
Let me point out that Jesus doesn’t criticize those who have wealth. He’s the provider of all things and He entrusts some people with riches. The key is not how much we have but what we do with what we have. When we’re ready to launch our capital stewardship campaign for our facility project there will be many who are able to give much and others who are able to give a little. The key is not equal gifts, but equal sacrifice.
I like what a pastor said when his church was kicking off a capital campaign: “I have good news and bad news today. The good news is that we have enough money to pay for our new building program! The bad news is that the money is still in your pockets!”
After having their full attention, Jesus says, “this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing in the offering box.” The order in the Greek is significant: “this widow, the poor one.” This dear woman caught the eye of the most important person in the universe. Some commentators believe that Jesus is saying she gave more than any single giver but notice that He says she gave “more than all.” Amazingly, her two thin and small copper coins were more than the sum total of all the gifts that were given that day!
Jesus celebrates the sacrifice of the giver, not the size of the gift.
I heard about a woman who loved her great king, as did all the people of his kingdom. She wanted to demonstrate her deep affection but she didn’t have much to give. She lined up with everyone else to give money to him but when it was her turn she was embarrassed because she only had two pennies. She pressed the two pennies into his hand as she looked down to the ground and quickly hurried on out of embarrassment. The king called after her, “Was it you who gave me these?” He opened his hand and there were two pieces of gold covered in costly diamonds and flawless pearls. She said, “No, I didn’t give you those.” He replied, “Look at them. Take them in your hands.” As soon as she did, they turned into two small pennies, but when she put them back in his hand, they became pieces of gold again. He smiled and said, “Thank you for the beautiful gift. I will treasure it forever.”
I’ve been helped by 2 Corinthians 8:12: “For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.”
It’s all God’s money, isn’t it? I appreciate the insight from Giving and Getting in the Church by R. Mark Dillon. He says that a person’s giving attitude often starts with “Don’t talk to me about money” to “Don’t talk to me about my money” and then moves to “How much money should I give?” to “How much of God’s money should I give?” and ends with “How much of God’s money should I keep?”
I called one our newer members this past week to get his take on why he and his wife tithe (give at least 10%). I’ve had previous conversations with him and knew that they find great joy in giving. When I told him what I was preaching on today he reminded me that it’s a lot easier to hear a sermon about giving when you are giving. He believes that God has blessed them because they are tithing and encourages everyone else to take the tithing challenge and see what God does in their lives: “If this widow gave everything, how can we not give at least 10%? Tithing is all about trusting, not just giving.”
Jesus celebrates the sacrifice of the giver, not the size of the gift. He sees who gives. He sees what we give. He sees why we give. There’s one more thing Jesus notices. Jesus sees how we live.
4. Jesus sees how we live. A chicken and a pig were walking down the road together when they came to a sign in front of a building that said, “Annual Fundraiser. Ham and egg breakfast.” The chicken said to the pig, “Hey, that’s right up our alley. Why don’t we go in and help out?” To which the pig replied, “That’s easy for you to say. For you it’s just a contribution. For me we’re talking total commitment.”
Are you just making a “contribution” or are you ready to make a total commitment to Christ? God is not looking for contributors. He’s calling for committers. Jesus explains that the widow’s giving came out of how she was living in verse 44: “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.” Those with much gave quite a bit. The widow had little, but she gave it all. She didn’t just put in two small copper coins – she put in everything! It’s not the portion but the proportion that matters to God.
The wealthy made a contribution while the widow demonstrated total commitment. As far as monetary value, she gave very little but the Lord measures giving by our motive, our means and by how much we have left. According to 1 Chronicles 29:5, our giving comes out of how we’re living; our contribution flows from our consecration: “Who then will offer willingly, consecrating himself today to the LORD?” The question is not so much, what am I giving? But rather, how am I living? When we’re surrendered to the Lord, the little we give is a lot when given to the Lord. God can do great things when we offer the little we have.
I recently read a book called, God and Money. In their research about how to manage money in a godly way, the authors assumed the key question was how much we should give. But then they discovered something surprising: “It finally dawned on us that we were thinking about the question backward. A faithful reading of Scripture leads not to the question, ‘How much should I give?’ Rather it leads to the question, ‘How much do I need to keep?’”
Flipping the question this way is countercultural, even in the church. Here’s what they write in the preface: “God loves us. He wants the best for us. And he knows we thrive when we give ourselves away. Thus, He calls us to be givers – not donors, but radical, all-in givers.”
We don’t give in order to get and we don’t give thinking that we’ll earn God’s favor. Rather, because of God’s grace we offer back to Him what is His anyway. 2 Corinthians 9:7: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” This woman didn’t give because she was paying dues, fulfilling her duty or giving toward her debt. She gave because it was her delight to give.
Our view of God determines everything else about us. If we consider Him weighty, we will live and give accordingly. If we see God as out to get us, then we’ll be afraid and give only to appease His anger. And, if we don’t think much of God at all, chances are we won’t give much either.
The widow didn’t give a lot. She gave her all. She didn’t give the Lord her leftovers. She gave her all. She didn’t give what she could spare. She gave her all.
• Jesus knows who gives
• Jesus knows what we give
• Jesus knows why we give
• Jesus know how we live
1. Start by giving something on a regular basis. A little is a lot in the hands of the Lord.
2. Take the tithing challenge. In Malachi 3:10, God invites us to test Him by tithing. Here’s an idea. Why not give 10% between now and the end of the year and watch what blessings come your way.
3. Let’s begin praying now to see how God wants each of us to give “above and beyond” to our upcoming facility project.
4. Give your life to the One who gave His life for you.
A church meeting was held some time ago to raise money for foreign missions. The chairman decided to read out loud the list of donors. “Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So, $50,000.” This was met with great cheering. “Mr. So-and So, $20,000.” Much cheering. “Mary Smith, 2 pennies.” No cheering. The chairman was not pleased with this cool reception and so in the midst of the silence, He exclaimed, “Hush, I think I hear the clapping of the pierced hands of Jesus.”
This widow woman gave everything because Jesus gave His all for her. If we listen today, we can hear the clapping of his pierced hands.
Let’s transition now and focus on the pierced hands and feet of Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. We’re given some guidelines in 1 Corinthians 11.
1. Look up. “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.” (11:27)
2. Look within. “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” (11:28)
3. Look around. “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.” (11:33)
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Communion Set Up
• Open communion
• Grape juice
• Pick up two cups stacked together.
• Twist the top one to take them apart and then hold a cup in each hand.
Video Set Up
• We’re going to do something different today. Every year on the first weekend in November we remember our Christian brothers and sisters who are being persecuted as Hebrews 13:3 says: “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” As we hold the elements we’re going to watch the story of Richard Wurmbrand, the founder of Voice of the Martyrs. After the video is finished we’ll take the elements together.
• I like the first two letters in communion: communion. This prefix means, “jointly, mutually; in common.” It reminds us that we take communion together with each other because we have Christ in common. And we take it jointly with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.
Taking of Elements
• The widow gave her all…Jesus gave His all…and the persecuted are giving their all. How can we hold back?
• Hold up your insert to see 10 prayer requests for the persecuted
• Stop by the table right outside the auditorium doors and pick up some free materials, including a wristband to remind us to pray for the persecuted
• A regional VOM conference will be held in Morton in June