Encounter with Jesus - Watching at the Temple
Encounter with Jesus: Watching at the Temple (Mark 12:41-44)
What did Jesus do as the last act of public ministry? He sat down in a special "pew" and watched the offering at God's house. On the last day of His public ministry He taught at the temple (11:27; 12:35). Even though the house of God was imperfect, He was there. He confronted its leaders. He cleansed its courts. But the very last thing He did was watch and instruct concerning our giving to God's work. Then and now the Lord Jesus watches our offering and teaches us what is truly great giving.
The Lord Jesus Watches Us as We Give to God's Treasury
There is a treasury in God's house. This is not an innovation, an imposition, or something alien to the purpose of God's house. In the Court of the Women at the Jewish temple there were no less than thirteen treasuries. Each was labeled for a specific purpose. Jesus commended this; He did not condemn it. When God's people cease to give, they cease to live. Money is condensed life, pent-up energy. When we give money, we give life to God. Biblical worship includes God's treasury as much or more as sermons and songs.
The Lord Jesus watches the treasury. The last act of Jesus' three-year ministry was to sit down and watch people as they gave at God's house. He had profound interest in how and what the people were giving.
The Lord Jesus watches how we give continually. The very word suggests not only that He carefully but also that He continually watched as people gave. He watched every gift and every giver. Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, today, and forever." We may rest assured that He still watches the treasury of His church. When we give it is His gaze that really matters. It is not how you look at your gift, but how He looks at your gift that really matters.
The Lord Jesus watches how we give discerningly. He carefully evaluates as we give. He individualizes us as we give. Fifteen thousand people could fit into the Court of the Women where the treasury was located. At Passover there were mobs of people attempting to give. Jesus distinguished three groups: the crowd, the rich, and the widow. He saw each group and He studied each individual. You do not fade into the crowd at offering time. He looks and He knows.
When we give, we give to Him. We do not give to a "budget" or a human organization. Our giving is to Him. Our gifts are the very best test of our devotion to Him.
The Lord Jesus Assesses Us as We Give to God's Treasury
The Lord assesses our circumstances. That day He individually focused on one giver. He focused on her uniqueness, her resourcelessness, and her aloneness. She was unique. There were many rich, but only one such widow. She was without resources. The word "poor" indicates a cringing beggar, not just a pauper. She was alone. The biblical widow had no government agency or community fund to help her. Jesus always knows the circumstances out of which we give. To some that is an encouragement. He knows that you would give Him everything if you had it. To others it is profoundly disturbing to think that He knows what we give. We live in luxury, indulge ourselves lavishly, and give next to nothing to His work.
The Lord assesses our contributions. This woman gave two "leptons." The word refers to the smallest Greek coin that was minted out of copper. It was worth only 1/ 128th of a day's working wage. She had two and could have kept one. She gave both of them, leaving nothing for her next meal. Jesus did not run up to her and stop her. He knew the truth, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). He knew what she knew: the Father would care for her. The Lord assesses our contribution in light of our circumstances every time we give.
The Lord Teaches Us as We Give to God's Treasury
Out of the crowd at the temple, the Lord Jesus called His disciples to Him for special instruction. Who should listen to this word today? Disciples should listen. He is calling you to hear this. You categorize yourself by how you listen.
The Lord makes a surprising evaluation of our giving. This poor widow had given more than all of the others put together. He counts the offering differently. She gave more because of her motive. But in fact, she gave more in real money. The story of this woman has motivated millions to give for 2,000 years. She indeed gave more!
The Lord gives an instructive explanation about our giving. Who gives the biggest gift? Some give out of their surplus, their overflow, their abundance. These never touch the nerve of sacrifice. They live, eat, dress, and drive the same as they would if they had not given.
She gave out of her poverty, need, and deficiency. It was an act of actual self-denial. The affluent gave what they did not need. She gave what was less than she needed. Jesus reveals this principle: God measures your gift not in net dollars but in relationship to all that you have.
Beneath all of this is the basic motivation in life. Do you trust God to care for you if you care for His church? This woman loved God's house and work. She gave everything to support it because she trusted God to care for her. Deficient giving is never a money problem; it is a trust problem. How can you trust God to save you eternally if you cannot trust Him to care for your needs in time? This woman's giving was like the cross. After Jesus commented on her giving all, He went out and did the same on Calvary.
On Harvest Day who will be the biggest giver? The one who gives like this woman— out of a motive of trust and in relationship to all of what she had.