Summary: A Stewardship sermon

Tainted Money

There was a man who called at the church and asked if he could speak to the Head Hog at the trough. The secretary said "Sir, if you mean our pastor you will have to treat him with a little more respect than that and ask for the ’Reverend’ or ’The Pastor.’ But certainly you cannot refer to him as the Head Hog at the Trough." The man said, "I understand. I was calling because I have $40,000 I was thinking about donating to the building fund." She said, "Hold on for just a moment-I think the big pig just walked in the door." You know, we’re all subject to changing our tune when money is suddenly involved. We tend to treat people differently when money is invloved.

But let’s try looking at it a bit differently today. Jesus is sitting opposite the place where the offerings were put, watching the people make their donations as they come into the temple. He’s in the Women’s Court where, along the wall, there are thirteen large, metal, trumpet-shaped receptacles. We read in verse 41, "Many rich people put in large sums." And these receptacles sit in plain view, their clinking and clanking advertising the size of individual offerings. Now the person putting their money in might be tempted to consider the clink/clank value of his/her offerings. “Mmm, would it be more impressive to make a few loud clanks. Or maybe a long shower of smaller clinks? Or maybe the best show would be like the fireworks, a number of small clinks followed by a rousing finale of several great clanks.

You see, no one puts in paper money, so it all makes a loud racket as it rolls down this long horn and falls into the pool of coins. The use of offering envelopes, paying by check and, in some churches now, even credit cards, this particular temptation has been removed from church offerings today. Of course I suppose you could still have someone stand up and say, “I want to give $1,000 anonymously.”

So "A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny". She casts two lepta into the treasury (12:42). A lepton was cast from bronze and was the lowest denomination Greek coin in circulation at the time. Each coin is uniquely shaped and a bit smaller than a U.S. dime. The high-relief designs feature symbolic representations of anchors, stars, eight-spoked wheels, cornucopias and other objects reflecting daily life.

The value of the two Greek lepta was equivalent to one Roman quadrans. The Roman quadrans was in turn worth 1/64 of a denarius. Since the denarius was the normal wage for a day’s work by a menial laborer, one can calculate how small an amount the widow contributed by converting it to a modern-day value. If we estimate the average American laborer’s daily wages to be about $70, then the widow’s two lepta would equal $1.09.

Next to the hefty contributions Jesus apparently witnessed, such a pittance might seem laughable. But what struck Jesus was the percentage of the widow’s total savings represented by the two small coins. Jesus then calls his Disciples over and says, "This poor widow has put more in to the treasury than all the others." For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."

Jesus doesn’t condemn the large gifts of wealthy people, but says that this woman’s offering is even larger. He bases his calculation, not on what she gives, but on what she has left. He knows how tempting it would be for her to think, "This little bit won’t matter, so I will let the rich people fill the coffers." He knows how much easier it would be for her to give one coin rather than two. The gifts of the rich people were calculated gifts, guided by the law of the tithe and contrasting dramatically with the widow’s gift.

The poor widow (a redundant expression in Jesus’ day) gave the least of coins — equivalent to pennies — but gave the most relative to her income. Her gift came out of her poverty, not her wealth; out of her want, not out of her affluence.

The widow gave much more than a tithe, much more than was expected of her. We know about tithing. We’ve all heard about how we’re supposed to tithe. God commands tithing. Leviticus 27:30,32 "Ten percent of everything you harvest is holy and belongs to me, whether it grows in your fields or on your fruit trees...When you count your flocks and herds, one out of ten of every newborn animal is holy and belongs to me."

W. A. Criswell tells of an ambitious young man who told his pastor he’d promised God a tithe of his income. They prayed for God to bless his career. At that time he was making $40.00 per week and tithing $4.00. In a few years his income increased and he was tithing $500.00 per week. He called on the pastor to see if he could be released from his tithing promise, it was too costly now.

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