JESUS ON GIVING [Mark 12: 41 – 44]

HOW GOD COUNTS
Mark 12:41-44  (cf Luke 21:1-4)

The thought today is “Money Talks.  Is the cry of the greedy athlete in Jerry MacGuire “Show me the money” any different than the world view of many in the family of faith?  Rev 3:17  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.   Competes with God for the throne of our hearts…. Mat 6:24  “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

THE SCENE (Mark 12: 41-44)     Let’s see how God Counts………..JESUS ON GIVING

Jesus’ presence in the Temple began with his condemnation of the buyers and sellers for the animal sacrifices and moves now to his commendation of a widow who sacrifices her all for God.

Context: 1. Great Commandment of v. 28-31; 2. “Watch Out” Warning regarding the Teachers of the Law b/c they are largely externalists w/o love [v.38-40]

The Lord chose the Temple treasury for his departing shot before leaving the Temple for good.  Giving reveals the state of the heart as few other things can; thus, Jesus chose this place to contrast the phony righteousness of the religious establishment with true devotion to God.

Mark 12:41  Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.
Mark 12:42  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.

Jesus is watching………..even during the offering.  George MacDonald said, ‘When we feel as if God is nowhere, He is watching over us with an eternal consciousness.’

·    The Temple Treasury
Where worshippers placed their offerings.  Consisted of 13 brass treasure chests called shofar chests; and according to the Mishnah, each of the chests bore inscriptions designating what the offerings were for:  New & Old  Shekel dues, Bird  & Young bird offering, Wood / Frankincense / Gold for the Mercy Seat, and on 6 – Freewill Offerigs.  B/C of the passover, the treasury was a most busy place as both local inhabitants and pilgrims crowded past the 13 chests and inserted their offerings into the narrow brass mouths of the chests.

·    Many Rich

No condemnation of the rich and their gift, just a comparative illustration that elevates the sacrifice and total surrender of the widow…….and yet, perhaps we should we take warning that being able to do a good deed on a scale which is impossible for others can inbreed a delusion of superiority and security in our assessment of God’s favor.

·    A Poor Widow

She, out of her poverty, put in everything (12:44). Mark describes the widow as “poor” (12:42). The Greek word in v. 42, ptoche, indicates a pauper, not just a person whom we might call poor. Just how destitute she was is indicated by the fact that all she possessed was two coins which Mark and Luke identify as “lepta.”
A great variety of coin denominations circulated in first-century Palestine. The basic unit was a “denarius,” a small silver coin which represented a day’s pay for an ordinary laborer.  Her offering was two coins, so small they were called lepta (literally, “peeled”, or “fine”, the idea being a tiny thin coin).  What were two lepta worth? 1/80 of a denarius.  Our widow, with only two lepta to her name, was destitute indeed.  She was a poverty stricken widow. 

It is interesting to note, that she didn’t come to the church for an entitlement, but to give! Further, she entrusted her gift to a den of thieves condemned by Jesus for exploiting the people.  Ever tempted with these 2 rationalizations [Don’t take care of me.   I don’t like the way they spend.]

THE TEACHING (v.43-44)

Mark 12:43  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more [more excellent, greater; in quantity, quality.  anyone can make a difference ] into the treasury than all the others.
Mark 12:44  They all gave out of their wealth [excess, remain; therefore at little cost to them] ; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.”

John Wesley – When I have any money, I get rid of it as quickly as possible, lest it find a way into my heart.  Treasure is – Heart is [things, retirement, temporal]

Mat 6:19  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
Mat 6:20  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Mat 6:21  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Mat 6:22  “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.
Mat 6:23  But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
Mat 6:24  “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
Mat 6:25  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
Mat 6:26  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
Mat 6:27  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ?
Mat 6:28  “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.
Mat 6:29  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
Mat 6:30  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Mat 6:31  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
Mat 6:32  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
Mat 6:33  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Mat 6:34  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

James 5:5  You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.

·    Not Equal Giving, But Equal Sacrifice – a resounding clange vs. a tiny clink.

Would we blame her is she kept one for herself?  She gave everything!  On this Passover she was silently saying to God, “I love you, and all I have is yours.  Here’s my heart, my life”  In giving to God sacrificially she completely entrusted herself to Him to provide her needs.

The largest % of giving by any group in American society is given by those making $20k or less.  Heart follows treasure, have more – love IT more!

There is no advantage to the poor or the rich – issue of heart… Prov 30:7  “Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Prov 30:8  Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Prov 30:9  Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

·    How God Counts
The means [level of sacrifice] of the giver and the motive [level of love] are the measure of true generosity.   (1 Cor 13:3 NIV)  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Where’s your heart?  The posture of our hearts makes all the difference.  Do I give out of love for God?  His Kingdom?  His Ministry?  Ever write a check to the IRS?  The IRS does not care whether I give willingly or grudgingly; not so with the Lord!

All gifts went into the same chest, the gifts of the rich and widows counted by the same hands, the the counters – some coins far out valued others; and to the Lord, the same was true – yet the value had little to do with the denomination of the coin, but had everything to do with the heart attitude of the giver which led the giver to sacrificially give beyond one’s means.

Kent Hughes writes, “How foolish we are in the ways we measure value and worth. And how many unknowns will wear crowns larger and brighter than the famous among us when Jesus distributes our rewards.

Little is much when God is in it!  John 6:9 “Feeding of the 5000”  Boy’s lunch.  “What difference can I make?”  Seemingly small gifts multiply in the Lord’s hands!  We can all be involved!  God is looking at the heart for a sacrifice of one’s entire person and resources out of a motive of love.

·    2 Samuel 24……….

David – God liked his heart  1 Sam 13:14  “a man after his own heart”  Acts 13:22
of David, God said in 1 Sam 16:7  …….. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
David understood sacrifice……..
2 Sam 24:24  But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them.
2 Sam 24:25  David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

·    2 Corinthians 8
Is it possible for the Church to love and give like the widow? Sacrificially, out of poverty?  YES!  2 Cor 8:1  And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace [grace giving, v. 6] that God has given the Macedonian churches.[poor in Phillipi vs. rich of Corinth]
2 Cor 8:2  Out of the most severe trial [affliction, anguish, tribulation], their overflowing joy [the joy of sacrifice!  Heb 12:2] and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.
2 Cor 8:3  For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability [ it hurt! and yet joy!]  Entirely on their own, [no coercion, manipulation]
2 Cor 8:4  they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.
2 Cor 8:5  And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first [=chiefly] to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.[God does not want our $, he wants us!]
2 Cor 8:6  So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part.
2 Cor 8:7  But just as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us — see that you also excel in this grace of giving.[a significant part of the package – Spirit comes in yet yielding is process.  God does not want our $, he wants us!  Yet, we cannot give ourselves to him apart from our $]
2 Cor 8:8  I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.
2 Cor 8:12  For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.  [boy’s lunch,  $4.2 not your concern]

·    The Joy of Sacrifice – Is Sacrifice a positive or negative to you?  Many view sacrifice as a negative.   In Bible, sacrifices pleased God, viewed as a positive, took away sin, honored Lord!

(Heb 12:2 NIV)  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The account  of the widow who gave everything makes a superb transition to the story of how Jesus `gave everything’ for men

Examination & Response:  It is not about the gift, it is about the heart of love, and the level of sacrifice!
God doesn’t need money, He owns it all – and yet He watches us like he did the givers 2000 years ago, and assesses our hearts.

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About Gary Coiro

Nonprofit & Church Leader Nonprofit Leader and Consultant since 2004, following 15 years as a pastor. Competencies include board development, fundraising, staff development and management, strategic planning, church work, Bible teaching, and capital campaigns. Currently consulting and serving on the Church Ministries Management Team for a large multi-cultural evangelical church.
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