Text: Mark 12:38-44
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.”
Founding Father Patrick Henry once said:
"I have now disposed of all my property to my family. There is one thing more I wish I could give them and that is faith in Jesus Christ. If they had that and I had not given them a single shilling, they would have been rich; and if they had not [Christ], and I had given them all the world, they would be poor indeed."
Our God is a greedy God! He wants it all!
No. This isn’t going to be a sermon on stewardship and giving. This will be though, about being given and receiving. You see our God is a jealous God. He wants it all!
4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Tim. 2:4
Even those whom you and I would cast off … he desires!
“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,”
Beware of them!
They are seen publicly; they have the best seats in the house; and are honored at the feasts and gatherings.
No, I’m not talking about the Kardashians, though the image might be appropriate. Being seen, having the best seats and being honored is a desire we can all fall victim to. At times we see it play out in our lives. At Weddings, those guests of importance are placed at a table near the bride and groom, while those who are acquaintances are seated back in the corner and away from the action.
You might see it in black tie affairs or charity balls where the people with means pay a heavy price to be seen at the table of the well known … being seen and even well known maybe in their own right. Some, like Jesus suggests in the Gospel reading, may have gotten there:
40 [by devouring] widows' houses
Breaking the 7th commandment and stealing our neighbor's money or property, or getting them by false dealing … taking advantage of those less fortunate.
Jesus says, “They will receive the greater condemnation.”
But joyfully, it is Christ who has made you rich!
There was a time that you purchased your seats at church. This may seem odd because we seem to have fewer and fewer sell outs here at Peace. But there was a time that churches paid the bills they had by selling the best seats in the house to those who were prominent and well to do and could pay for the best seats in church.
Today we might see it as those who sit courtside at a basketball game right next to the players and the other well-to-do’s being seen in the place of honor.
When Abraham Lincoln was first elected President it was customary to pay for the best seats in church and St. John Episcopal Church, near the White House, had been established as the “Church of the Presidents.” It vied for his attendance along with New York Ave. Presbyterian Church. Both had pew fees for the best seats so St. John offered to give President Lincoln the Presidents pew for no charge - seeing that it would be beneficial to them to have the President in attendance at their church. Instead, Lincoln, being the enigma that he was, paid the fee at New York Ave. Presbyterian Church and attended there - not wishing to be seen in the place of honor in the President’s Pew he chose a more humble seating arrangement.
41 [So Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box.
The one who is the true Temple sits down in the temple to watch. Remember Jesus saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:9, speaking of himself and his passion. Here Jesus sits … and watches … and he sees many rich people put in large sums.
That in of itself is not bad. The giving in support of the work of the church is good. God works through means as we Lutherans often say. We see it in God’s economy of word and sacrament working through pastors as jars of clay that dispense God’s gifts not from us … but through us.
It is God who works through means so your gifts and offering are not needed by God in of himself, as it is in fact all his anyway, but he gives to you and me so that we can be of service and serve the work of the church and our neighbor.
So the object lesson that Jesus here teaches brings to light a great truth.
42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.
Certainly she was not rich by human standards. But she exhibited a sacrificial giving not out of earthly wealth but out of spiritual wealth.
Those who gave much were giving out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had.”
Our God is a greedy God! He wants it all!
You see … he wants you. He wants you to know him. He wants you to trust him, because he gave everything for you. His only begotten son Jesus Christ took of human flesh and humbled himself and became man so that he could be your substitute and stand in your place and give his life so that you might live.
Jesus gave up everything for you. The widow gave all she had as a testament to where her trust was placed. But how did Jesus know her faith against the others?
God’s all discerning eyes look at the heart and every life and every heart lie bare before him.
It is made all the more evident to me as I visit the shut-ins. Their desire is to give even when they can’t. Some can and do, and do so very generously, while others are barely able to make ends meet. I always remind them that it is the work of the church to bring Christ to them in their need as James chapter 1 reminds us:
27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
“Many who live in abundance decline to give or give too little for fear that they will not have enough for the future” RH Lenski Mark Pg. 559
We cannot copy this widow’s act of giving and match the gold she gave in the Lord’s eyes, but by faith and placing your trust in the same Lord, Jesus Christ, you will have riches in heaven. The same riches she had and same Lord she trusted.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.