Summary: Jesus drew attention to the faith, trust and sacrificial giving of a poor widow who gave all she had to support the temple ministry.
I stand before you as a former Bank Manager, well aware that some types of ‘Banker’ are not especially popular at the moment; but I think it is the banker in me calculating that in the last 7 years I have probably preached less than 1% of my sermons on the subject of money. A very poor return - roughly equivalent to the less than 1% interest rate that many savings accounts currently pay!
I have not preached enough about money. Jesus referred to money often. Our question today is, “What did Jesus do about money?” And I’m also going to ask, “What did Jesus say about money?”
But what did Jesus himself do for money? He had no paid employment during his 3 year preaching, teaching and healing ministry. As a young man he was a carpenter. (Mark 6:3), “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son” …and they took offence at him.
The carpenter, turned wise teacher and healer was not popular in his home town.
After leaving his carpentry and, later, his home town, what did Jesus do for money? Where did his money come from? The gospel writer Luke (Luke 8: 1-3) tells us: Jesus went from town to town, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God; and in addition to ‘The Twelve’ male disciples there was a group of women who had been healed, including Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna. Luke writes that “these women were helping to support them out of their own means” (8:3). So those who had money were financially helping the ministry to take place.
Now you know and I know that our Youth Outreach Worker Liz Fisher is not Jesus! Even more so, we all know that I am not Jesus! And yet there is a similar principle at work. Liz left her job at Chelmsford County Council; and we as a Church pay for her to minister.
Nine years ago I left my job in banking, and we as a Church pay a large sum of money every month to the Diocese of Chelmsford. I physically receive less than half the sum we pay to the Diocese, but it also pays for the two years full-time training I had, pays for the pensions of previous vicars here, provides for my housing, and helps other parishes in poorer areas who cannot afford to pay for a Vicar by themselves. Literally, and I wonder how you will hear this, we as a Church are paying for me and my family being here! As a Church we more than broke even last year as a result of a large legacy left to us in the will of a worshipper. However, our regular monthly income was less than our regular monthly expenditure.
Those who had money financially helped the ministry of Jesus to take place, reflecting the Old Testament ‘tithe’ where every member of the community gave a tenth of their harvest to the Levites (Num 18: 21,24) in return for their service …in the Tent of meeting.
It’s a principle I have been able to keep up since I first started work at Lloyds Bank in 1986. My salary of £300 went into my bank account and a day later 10% of that went to the Church to support the work. If you can give regularly I have Gift Aid forms with me today.
St. Paul made tents in order to provide finance for his ministry, so that as far as possible he would not be a burden on churches as he travelled from town to town, but Jesus and his disciples were supported financially. The ministry of this Church needs to be supported financially in the future as it has been in the past, but we don’t give money because the Vicar stands up asking for money, especially since the Vicar ends up receiving some of it. We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:11). We give our money and our time as a response to the actions of God who took on flesh and gave Himself to us. What a gift! He gave his time and his very life to us; so when we give it is a response of love to God who first loved us.
Every pound and every penny counts. One Sunday morning a very well meaning boy walked up to the Vicar after the service and handed him his £1 pocket money. The boy said, “I want you to have my pocket money Vicar. I think you must need it more than me, because my Dad says you’re the poorest preacher this Church has ever known”!
Joking aside, today’s Bible reading gives us one of many examples of Jesus talking about money. It’s an event in the life of Jesus as he and the disciples are in the Temple courts, and Jesus focuses upon a poor widow placing “two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny” (Mark 12:42) into the temple treasury; and because Jesus is omniscient, because he knows our thoughts, our motives, our attitudes, he is able to comment upon the woman’s tiny gift in comparison to large gifts which were being made by many rich people (12:41). Jesus saw into their hearts and He sees into our hearts too.