Lessons in Giving
Every person can learn about giving by learning the truths Jesus draws out in this passage.
What's the most outrageous thing you would do for $10,000 cash? That's the question posed recently by Chicago radio station WKOX, which attracted responses from more than 6,000 full-tilt crazies.
The eventual winner: Jay Gwaltney of Zionsville, Indiana, who consumed an 11-foot birch sapling -- leaves, roots, bark and all. For the event, he donned a tux and dined at a table set elegantly with china, sterling, candles and a rose vase. Armed with pruning sheers, the Indiana State University sophomore began chomping from the top of the tree and worked his way, branch by branch, to the roots. His only condiment: French dressing for the massive birch-leaf salad. The culinary feat took 18 hours over a period of three days.
When it was all over, Gwaltney complained of an upset stomach. Evidently the bark was worse than his bite.
Campus Life, December 1980, p. 19.
Money will certainly make people do some unusual things. I would like to give you some truths that Jesus shares about money in the observations he makes about the people giving at the temple.
Truth I. Amount is irrelevant
A. As Christians who are gathered here we probably have a good understanding of this, but sometimes it is hard for that information to really get into us. We are able to recite this information, but it is not really something that we believe. As Jesus is watching people putting their offerings in the temple treasury, he makes some comments. I can imagine that there were many who were coming through with amounts of money for the treasury, but it was the wealthy ones who caught everyone’s attention. I would guess that they were trying to bring attention to themselves. They had large sums of money to give, and they wanted people to know that they were bringing in these large sums of money. Jesus however takes note of and contrasts this widow with the wealthy who are bringing their offerings in.
B. The money that this widow gives is worth less than a penny. Historians believe that what she gave was two of the least valuable coins of the day. In v. 43 Jesus says, “(she) has put more into the treasury than all the others.” The only way this is possible is if the amount does not matter. It was based on the proportion of her giving. She gave and she had little to nothing left to live on. These wealthy men who gave were barely even contributing based on the proportions.
C. How easy it is to say, I don’t have much to give so I will not give. Jesus paints a very different picture for us through this widow woman. She gave even though she had very little to give. What she gave meant more because she was giving out of her poverty. God is just as glad to hear the coins being dropped into the offering plate as he is to have bills and checks being put in the offering plate. The amount we give is irrelevant. The larger issue is the fact that we are giving, and that we are giving a portion of our income. Maybe you are not able to give as much as someone else who is here, it does not matter. Make sure that you get into the habit of giving, even if it seems little.
Truth II. Status is irrelevant
A. The priests and the levites who were there watching the offering be put into the treasury were probably not even noticing this widow. They were looking at the rich people who brought in large amounts of money. They were probably excited about the amount that was being delivered. I think that there was a class system in that day that took special notice in the temple of the rich people and ignored the poor widows. I would again point you to the fact that it was not the wealthy people that Jesus noticed, it was this widow that he noticed.
B. My dad told that story of Bob Evans, the man, buying the grand champion hog at the Ohio State Fair and paying for that with one dollar bills. It would have been much easier to write a check, but it was not as big of a show. I can just imagine helpers carrying bushel baskets of dollar bills in to pay for this hog. It was a bit of a show. He was Bob Evans, and he was able to do that.
C. Can you imagine this widow lady wedged inbetween some big givers trying to get to the treasury to leave her offering? It would have been a contrast. She would have seemed so much less important than them, but Jesus noticed her and the sacrifice this gift would have been for her.
D. It is fun to hear the stories of someone like Orville Merrilat giving millions of dollars for some charitable organization or the man who is the founder and ceo of Catipillar. These are fun stories to hear and it causes us to put those people on a pedestal. In reality the little bit of money we mput into the offering every week is just as significant as the money coming from someone who has a whole lot more. It looks the same, it smells the same and it spends the same. Even though these might be great men, their gifts don’t appear any different to God than our gifts do. Allow those men to be good examples to spur you on to do the same.
Truth III. Faith is required
A. One of the things we might over look in the Merillat story is that there was a time when he did not have all of that money. There was a time when he and his wife were making cabinets in a garage. That was when they decided to be faithful to God, even when it was questionable as to whether they should give or not, they did. They were giving to God when it required faith on their part and not just when they had acquired so much that they could give easily.
B. Jesus says of this woman in v. 44 that she gave “all she had to live on.” I don’t know exactly what that means, but it certainly seems like a lot. She has so little to her name, but she gave anyway. It reminds me of the widow that Elijah deals with. He is told by God to ask her for some bread and water. It is revealed that she is making the last little bit of flour into bread for her and her son, assuming that after it is gone they will die. Elijah was asking this woman to have faith in God that he would provide for her and her son. He did exactly that. Her jar of oil and flour was never empty. She always had something. It does not look like she ever had a lot, but she always had something. The woman that Jesus is observing will now need to rely on God.
C. The wealthy people that were giving would put their money in the treasury and they would go back to their businesses and their homes and not have to worry about anything. This woman just gave everything. So she would need to rely on God for her daily provision. She might not even have anything for bread. It was an act of faith on her part. She gave to God, knowing it was God’s in the first place. She probably had firsthand experience in knowing that God would take care of her.
D. Sometimes it can be painful financially to give. I can think of all kinds of reasons why not to give, but there is one big reason to give. God has requested it and it already belongs to him. As we learn to give God blesses us with more and our faith grows.
Truth IV. Action must accompany faith
A. Do you believe that Jesus would have made an example of this woman if she would have just had good intentions? I don’t think Jeuss would have even noticed her. It was because of her actions that Jesus noticed what this woman was doing. She did not just say, If I had a lot of money I would give it. She did something about it. She started with the little that she had and she started giving from that little bit. She gave even though she probably could not afford to give and jesus commended her for her faith. She would now be required to go and rely on God for whatever she was going to live on.
B. In the book of James there is quite a bit of information about faith and deeds. It can be summed up in one verse, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (Jas 2:26 NIVUS) You cannot simply claim to have faith and have no actions to accompany it. Our faith needs to be evidenced by the things that we do. People should be able to see our faith, just like they could see the faith of this widow woman. James makes it plain that if we don’t have the actions to accompany our faith, then it is really not faith at all. We need to be people of faith and that faith has to be backed up with actions.
C. The rich people who were giving would give and go on and live their life, but this widow would have to go home and pray and ask God to provide for her. There was very little faith demonstrated by the rich men. There was a great deal of faith demonstrated by the widow. In a lot of ways in our world we have convinced ourselves of things that are not true. We say that we believe that God will provide for us, but when we are asked to give we hold on tighter. We say that we know what we should and should not do, but our knowledge of right and wrong does not bring about any change in our life.
D. We are here probably because we claim to be people of faith. How does that faith look to other people? Can the people around us see our faith demonstrated in our actions? Do we just blend in with the rest of the world? Faith is not faith unless it is accompanied by action.
In this passage Jesus points out that the reasons for giving are more important than the amount. This woman demonstrated great faith, something I think God would like to see in our giving. He would also like to see that we are not so concerned about what we might have left. Our giving needs to be from the heart.