I heard an interesting story about a self-made millionaire who was giving a talk about how he made his fortune from nothing.
He spoke about how he left school at an early age and worked hard to make ends meet.
He took some risks and eventually it paid off and he is where he is today because he took those risks.
He started with nothing and said anybody could do what he did.
He challenged the listeners to go out and make their fortune from nothing as he did.
When question time came – a young man stood up – looked at the man and said
I dare you to do it again.
The rich man was speechless.
Could he take the risk again?
Would he be prepared to give it all up and try it again – make his fortune from nothing – now that he has got something.
When he was poor, he had nothing to lose.
He was prepared to take risks when the stakes were low.
Now that he was rich, it was different.
In our text this morning we have a woman who took a risk.
We don’t know much about her.
We know she is a poor widow.
She has no name.
There is very little that we know about her.
But that is not surprising.
Widows weren’t highly regarded in those days.
She would not have inherited her husband’s wealth.
There was no social security as there is today.
The money that she had probably came by begging for it.
But here she is – poor as she is – putting everything she owned into the Temple Offering as her gift to God.
What makes this story meaningful for me, is that the poor widow had 2 coins.
She could easily have put one in the offering and kept one for herself.
What would you have done?
Think about it for a moment.
The offering plate is coming around – you have 2 $5.00 notes.
That’s all you have to your name.
You have 3 options:
Put both in, like the widow.
Put one in and keep one for yourself to perhaps buy lunch – or you can.
Keep both for yourself to ensure you also have enough for a meal tonight.
Given her poor situation, I’m sure God wouldn’t have minded if she had kept both for herself – after all, the rich were putting in quite a lot of money.
What would you have done?
Perhaps you would have held back one – and would there have been a problem doing so?
You need to eat – you need money to survive.
But this woman put in everything she had.
Even if she had only put one coin in – that would have been half of what she owned.
How many of us would be prepared to give away half of our possessions?
The English version of the bible says, “she put in all she had to live on.
The original Greek is a little bit different and gives a better perspective – she gave her whole life.
That is what her offering meant – she gave her whole life to God.
She would walk out of the temple area with absolutely nothing.
Nothing, that is, except her faith in God.
If you think you would have put both coins in, like the widow did – ask yourself – would you do the same today given your current financial position?
Would you be prepared to give it all up for the sake of God?
Now we know that we are not saved by the amount of money we give to God.
But that is not what Jesus is speaking about.
Jesus is challenging people who are giving only part of their life to God.
This woman gave her whole life to God.
Not part of it.
And that is what God is speaking about.
God is not interested in part of your life – he wants it all.
In fact, Jesus says that giving only part of your life to God is worse than giving none of it.
In the book of Revelation Jesus condemns the church at Laodicea.
He condemned them for being lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – only half committed to God.
One or the other God can work with.
The church thought they were rich but in fact were poor in faith.
That was the Pharisees’ problem.
They were called hypocrites.
They loved to show off their religious commitment.
They took all the glamour of their high calling.
But at the same time had no problems living lives of selfishness.
Jesus condemned them and warned everyone to look away from them.
They were worse than the merchants and con artists that existed in the marketplace – because the Pharisees were God’s representatives to the people.
When you are lukewarm – only partly committed to God, it is difficult to see your faults – and they are easy to justify.
When you are lukewarm – then it means you are living a lie – saying you love God, but not with your whole heart.
The Pharisees and teachers of the Law thought they were the best and most committed in faith.
On the outside they looked to be doing the right thing before God.
They wore the right clothes.
They prayed long prayers.
They were seated in the high places in the synagogues.
Everyone respected them.
But in fact, they were so far from God that it was a real concern.
It would be difficult to point out their error because as far as they were concerned, nothing could be better in their relationship with God.
They needed to be challenged.
They needed to be broken down.
Now translate that into today’ situation.
They wore the right clothes – we dress in our Sunday best.
They prayed long prayers – we pray long prayers.
They were faithful with their offering – we are faithful with our offering.
They went to the synagogue – we come to church.
Jesus is warning that it is not the outside things that make us right before God – it is inside that God looks at – it is the heart that God looks at.
Jesus brings a frightening reminder to anyone who has become complacent in their faith.
Who thinks that they will be saved by what they do.
As a Christian, one of the most alarming passages that I read is where Jesus says: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven.
Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'
'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
I don’t know about you, but that sends a chill down my spine.
How do I know that I am not one of those who cry out Lord, Lord who will be refused heaven forever?
How do I know that God will say to me, well done my good and faithful servant – enter into heaven.
How do you know?
Can you be sure?
Yes you can be sure – and we are reminded of that from our 2nd reading that was read out from the book of Hebrews.
There it said: we are destined to die once and then we face the judgment.
But Christ was sacrificed to take away your sin and he will return again to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
In your baptism you had a special promise made to you.
God gave you the assurance of life forever when you were marked with the cross in baptism.
Today, Adam had that sign of the cross marked on him to prepare him for eternal life and save him from the eternal punishment of the judgment.
You cannot get that assurance anywhere else.
Not in your good deeds – not anywhere in the world.
Only in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ can you be sure that when Jesus returns you will go to heaven.
Every other way to God is full of uncertainty.
Many say they believe in God, just like the Pharisees did.
But it is only through faith in Jesus that you can be assured of heaven.
I have family who say they believe in God – but they are Muslim – they don’t believe in Christ.
I have friends who believe in God – but it is the God of New Age and philosophy – not Jesus Christ.
I think the latest census still puts at around 70% those who say they believe in God.
While only around 20% attend church on a regular basis.
Now church attendance doesn’t assure you of heaven nor does it make you a Christian.
But where will you hear God’s Word and receive the sacraments if not through the church.
Where are people hearing that word that tells them about Jesus and the forgiveness of sins that he died for?
Jesus teaching comes with a warning that those who have the Good News of salvation but reject it will face the most severe punishment.
But the Good News also comes with the most comforting assurance that those who do not reject Christ have no concern whatsoever.
For those who put their faith in Jesus and his sacrifice for our sins – eternal life is assured.
There will be no surprise on judgment day for those who put their faith in Jesus because Christ’s blood forgives all sins.
And here in God’s house you have direct access to that life giving blood when you come to the Lord's Supper.
Here in God’s house you have the assurance of God’s blessing as he comes to you in his word.
The woman in our text did not hold anything back as she gave her life into that offering.
But more importantly for, Jesus did not hold anything back as he put his entire life onto the cross to pay for your sins and give you life forever in the Kingdom of God.
And may that peace of God that surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.