Summary: This is a sermon on the stewardship of giving based on the account in Mark 12 about "The Widow’s Mite."
THE GIVER GOD BLESSES—MARK 12:38-44
--by R. David Reynolds
Dr. Haddon Robinson is Co-host and teacher on the radio broadcast “Discover the Word,” a writer for the devotional guide Our Daily Bread, and Harold J. Ockenga Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Writing in Leadership Journal he has stated, “When we discuss money, we’re talking about commitment, and commitment is our domain (--Haddon Robinson in
Leadership, Vol. 10, no. 4).” Leadership Journal is also famous for its cartoons, and two of its noted cartoonists are John Demchuck and Rex May.
John Demchuck once included a cartoon entitled “At the board meeting,” with the punch line: “The financial report, brought to you in living color—RED (--Cartoonist John Demchuck in Leadership, Vol. 10, no. 3.).” In another issue of the Journal Rex May’s cartoon pictured the head usher informing the pastor: “Your stewardship sermons are improving. Still no money, but a lot more IOUs” (--Cartoonist Rex May in Leadership, Vol. 10, no. 1.).”
Today is Stewardship Sunday in many Churches across the United States. Stewardship covers every area of a Christian and a Church’s life: (1.) our time, (2.) our talents, and (3.) our treasures. When the word “stewardship” is mentioned in Christian circles, our thoughts immediately turn to that third category, the one dealing with treasures, with money. In the future the Lord may direct me to preach on the first two, but because our text today is concerned with the third category, I believe the Holy Spirit wants to direct our hearts and indeed our commitment this morning towards the stewardship of money and giving. God will honor that disciple and that Church that return to Him His rightful tithes and offerings out of a loving heart.
Stewardship is based on the principle that God is the Rightful Lord, Master, and Owner of all of His Creation. In Scripture stewardship refers to “the ministry of managing God’s work through the Church.” The New Testament word for stewardship is a compound word consisting of two words, one meaning house and the other meaning an administrator or a manager. A steward, therefore, is “one who manages a household,” and stewardship refers to such management.
A steward was most often a loyal servant to whom a wealthy landowner entrusted the management of his property, estate, finances, or household affairs. A steward could be one’s “chief cook,” “his foreman,” or “his housekeeper.” As the steward’s responsibilities involved finances, in the parables of Jesus a steward usually means a “treasurer.” Oftentimes a steward would be the “guardian” over a minor child. In other words, since the Lord has answered our prayers in making us Sheila’s legal guardian, in the Biblical sense of the word, we have a ministry of stewardship over her.
A steward is one who “guards, protects, or takes care of another person’s property.” In the book of Genesis, Eliezer was Abraham’s steward, Joseph was Potiphar’s, and when Pharaoh elevated Joseph to the position of his Secretary of State, Joseph had his own household steward. All Christians are called to be faithful stewards in such passages of Scripture as I Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
In the ministry of stewardship each one of us is ordained by God to be caretakers of His creation, His property. He is the rightful owner of everything. Nothing really belongs to us. We are only temporary caretakers of the gifts He has entrusted to us. All money is His money; none is mine. Isabel Caroline Norton Ososki is a Professor of Nursing at Millikin University. She was in our first Church at Marissa and boards with our own Joyce Allen during Millikin’s Academic Year. Her Great-grandfather was the late Methodist Episcopal Bishop Edwin Holt Hughes, who was instrumental in bringing the former three major Methodist denominations together as the Methodist Church in 1939. Bishop Hughes preached a powerful message entitled “God’s Ownership.” It “put a rich parishioner’s nose out-of-joint. The wealthy man took the Bishop off for lunch, and then walked him through his elaborate gardens, woodlands, and farm. He demanded when the tour was complete, ‘Now are you going to tell me that all this land does not belong to me?’ Bishop Hughes smiled and suggested, ‘Ask me that same question a hundred years from now’ (--Bennett Cerf, Leadership, Vol. 1, no. 2.).”
In our text Jesus introduces us to two people, actually one class of people and a poor widow. The group is that notorious class of individuals called “the scribes” that we have so often encountered in Mark’s Gospel. We learn a valuable lesson in stewardship through both of their examples. Remember that “the scribes” were the experts in the Law of Moses. They were teachers of the Law in schools and synagogues. They expounded on the Scriptures; they preserved them. They were also referred to as lawyers and served as judges in the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court. In today’s text Jesus warns His disciples “beware of the scribes.” He gives several reasons for His warning, but let’s note one in particular: “They devour widows’ houses” (verse 40). Many of the scribes exploited widows. Jews and Christians have always been charged with a ministry of caring for widows. A noted case in point is James 1:27: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” The word that Jesus uses for “devour” literally means “to consume or destroy one another.” Many scribes did just this by exploiting widows rather than visiting them in their distress.