SUNDAY MORNING SERMON NOTES
How Would Jesus Take Up an Offering in Our Church?
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Sunday, June 6, 2010 - 10:00 a.m.  Sermon #: 1376
Pastor Don Horban

Mark 12:41-44 - ďAnd he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. [42] And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. [43] 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. [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."

The central idea of this morningís teaching needs to be clearly stated and remembered. It is this. I will never grow in the grace of giving until I have Jesusí viewpoint on it. Giving involves the heart as much as the wallet. Jesus values gifts only as they reflect the state of the heart giving them. Or, stated more precisely, Jesus measures financial gifts by the priorities the offering demonstrates in the rest of my life. Giving isnít measured by the amount on my cheque. Jesus measures it by the sacrifice involved in giving the cheque.

I can honestly say Iíve thought a great deal about this text over the years. Itís an uncomfortable account for many reasons. For example, I wonder how many pastors would have been comfortable praising this poor woman for her offering that Sabbath morning. Is it right for the church to take this womanís last cent? Was she being devout, just plain silly? In praising her gift was Jesus showing her compassion, or just being a slick fund-raiser?

This passage is important because it takes the guesswork out of the answers we might give to those questions. Fortunately, Jesus was right there to watch what this woman put into one of the thirteen vessels in the outer court for the gifts of the people. He was right there on purpose. Most of us think it impolite to watch what people put into the offering. We constantly hear that giving is just between the giver and God. But Jesus is God, and in this passage we learn that He doesnít look away like ushers do when we give our money. Jesus watches because, to Him, giving matters. My giving might not be your business, but it is Jesusí business. And this account reveals He watches it closely.

We know exactly what He thought of all the gifts given that day. The text tells us. He noticed the gifts of the rich, and He noticed the gifts of the poor. And Jesus didnít despise the gifts of the rich just because those givers were rich. Jesus never despised anyone just because they had money, anymore than he praised the woman in our account just because she was poor. That misses the whole point entirely.

This widowís gift probably didnít garner anyone elseís attention, so we are pleased to notice it did catch the eye of our Lord. He not only noticed, but He singled her out. He called attention to her gift and even more to her state of mind. In fact, it must have made quite an impression on Jesus. He actually called all of the disciples over to point out what this woman had done.

One thingís for certain. When Jesus calls notice to something, we should take notice. If He thinks something is important, I should too. Here are some of the key principles in this incident:

1) EVERYONE NEEDS TO GIVE TO GODíS KINGDOM - Most of us would feel this lady needed to keep the one cent more than the temple treasury needed to receive it. Most of us would have thought it cruel to even take her money, let alone praise her for giving it. What difference could her offering possibly make anyway? It wasnít the kind of amount most people would even write on the outside of their offering envelope. Yet Jesus praised the gift, and even more, the giver.

Perhaps we find here the very first insight into Jesusí perspective on giving. People need to give to the Lord. All people. We donít do a disservice to people when we teach and encourage them to give. All those wise cracks about fleecing the sheep are war off track. Weíre not exploiting the flock when we teach Biblical stewardship. I donít give because the church needs my cash. I give because I need to grow in the grace of giving. Rich and poor alike need to learn to give. It really is better to give than to receive, and thatís not just a great fund-raising slogan. These words came from Jesus Himself - Acts 20:35 - ď....remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.íĒ And He meant itís more blessed for the giver, not the one receiving the gift.

2) EVERYONE NEEDS TO BEGIN REGULAR PATTERNS OF GENEROUS STEWARDSHIP RIGHT WHERE THEY ARE WITH THE MONEY THEY HAVE

We can all learn from this poor widow. Do you ever catch yourself dreaming what you would give to the Lordís work if only you had more money? Have you ever tried to comfort your own heart by telling yourself you donít have much to work with right now, but things will get better soon - and when they do, youíll really get serious about giving to the Lord? The lesson of this text is to start where you are. You canít give what you donít have, and God doesnít expect you to. But you have to begin giving where you are - with whatever resources God has placed into your hands.

This widow was praised by Jesus because she didnít exclude herself from giving. Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned. If you practice being faithful with little you will grow to be faithful and fruitful with much. More importantly, you build safeguards against covetousness into your life as you honour God with your present wealth. As you are faithful with whatever God has given, you will learn gradually to continue to love God supremely, even if you should come to possess more of this worldís material goods. Seek first His Kingdom now. God will add blessing to your life as your soul continues to grow.

3) JESUS DOESNíT MEASURE YOUR GIVING BY YOUR CHARITABLE RECEIPT - This may be the dominant lesson in this event. This key principle in Jesusí perspective on giving is framed in the words of the forty-third verse:

Mark 12:43 - ďAnd he called his disciples to him and said to them, ĎTruly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.íĒ

Jesus is saying a mouthful here. Notice, she put in more than all of the others, not just more than any one of the others. She put in more than all of them put together. But how? In what real, down-to-earth sense can this be true? What could possibly have been that special about her gift? The answer to that question is at the very heart of Jesusí teaching on giving. Iím convinced this is the most important thing you can ever learn about how God views your giving to Him and His work. According to Jesus, she gave more because she gave out of her poverty, while they gave out of their wealth.

Jesus explains His amazing words from verse 23 in the very next verse, and He makes Himself clear beyond any dispute: Mark 12:44 - ďFor 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."

Did you catch it? My gifts are measured not by the amount I give. They are measured by the amount I keep for my own use. Itís not the amount on the cheque that catches Jesusí notice. Gifts are measured by sacrifice - not generosity - but sacrifice. And those two things are not the same. Generosity measures the gift by the amount given. A fifty thousand dollar donation is generous by any reckoning. But for a billionaire it is not likely the donation is an enormous sacrifice.

This is the crucial kingdom distinction. This poor widow demonstrated both supreme love for God and active faith in His care when she put her offering in the plate. She proved she loved God more than anything else in life because she kept absolutely nothing back from His use. And she proved active faith in His care because she demonstrated her confidence that God would supply all her needs as she honoured Him with her gift. Where else would she get her next meal?

4) JESUS WAS DRAWN TO THE SPIRIT IN WHICH THIS WOMAN GAVE HER GIFT - It seems to be the selfless, passionate heart of this woman that caught Jesusí attention. Notice how Mark places this widowís story in the context of the whole twelfth chapter of his account:

Mark 12:38-40 - ďAnd in his teaching he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces [39] and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, [40] who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."

The people described in these verses were the professionally religious people. They loved what their religion gave them in terms of recognition, reputation, influence, and prestige. They performed well in the spotlight, but with bad motives. Jesus saw through them right away. He still does. Tell yourself that every time you come into this sanctuary.

Right after giving these words of warning Jesus sits down for a minute to watch the people as they entered the temple. Just at that moment, this poor widow comes by, noticed by no one. She doesnít even know Jesus is watching (wouldnít we all give big offerings then?). Suddenly, out of no other motive than a love for her God, she puts in everything she has in this world. No one else says a word. No one else notices. No bells ring. No receipt is issued. Quietly she folds up her moth-eaten purse and returns home.

And hereís the point. Nothing sacrificed from a devoted heart is wasted. Her gift was gigantic when measured in terms of sacrifice rather than amount. Such is the way it always is in Godís Kingdom. Never allow fatigue or frustration with appeals, or the abuse of some religious organizations to distort or shrink the simple, God-filled passion this woman demonstrated. Jesus takes the time to make this woman the permanent measuring stick for giving to God.

This whole account deals with the issue we studied two weeks ago. This is how the New Testament lifts the ceiling of the tithe. It doesnít lower the floor. It just raises the ceiling. The tithe measures and limits my giving by a fixed percentage. It is merely a help to governing personal covetousness, but only a small help. This widowís gift grabs hold of Jesusí heart. It embarrasses the mind-set that calculates the tithe. If you donít like talking about the tithe, then donít. That wonít bother me at all as long as you replace the concept of the tithe with the example of this devout widow.

Many people can faithfully tithe without making any personal sacrifice at all. The tithe measures by the amount given. This account shows us how Jesus raises the bar of stewardship. This precious account measures the gift, not by the amount given, but by the amount kept back for personal use.

Generosity is good for the beginner in spiritual life. Sacrifice is better for maturing in love for God and discipleship. Sacrifice reforms and reshapes the heart of the giver. It sharpens the image of a God who gave His only begotten Son to reach and teach our materialistic hearts with His supremely sacrificial love.