Jesus sat down.
He was tired. Because constantly proving that you are in fact the Son of God, and the true Messiah, and the only way to heaven, and that it is by God’s grace that people are saved, and through faith that people will be in heaven, and that the miracles He did were in fact true honest to goodness, incredible miracles that proved all of the above – was hard work.
Jesus sat down opposite the temple treasury. It was a large chest located outside the temple doors. It was an easy way for anyone to come and drop off an offering to God.
And people came. One after another they came and dropped off their money into the box. They gave to God.
Since it was the time of the Passover, there were many in Jerusalem. More than usual. It was quite the spectacle too. Back then, people didn’t wireless confirm their gifts via an anonymous smartphone app. They didn’t write checks. They didn’t slip a few hundred dollars bills into an envelopes. They dropped bags of coins. Think Scrooge McDuck – with the big dollar signs on the side.
Because of this, it was very easy to distinguish between large gifts and no so large gifts. Large gifts filled a whole bag or more. Smaller gifts did not. Large gifts caught the attention of the Pharisees – smaller gifts did not.
In fact, you can almost hear the Pharisees gathered around the box, singing praise as one of their own drops off a large bag filled with shekels. “Oh what an awesome gifts! Hundreds of dollars given to the LORD, you are blessed.” “What’s that? Another bag? Incredible! You are an incredible giver. Your money will go a long way.”
So it continued – large donor after large donor passing by the treasure box as if they were models competing in a Miss America pageant – showcasing their “giving” to the Pharisaical world.
Then, a widow. She approached the chest. She reaches into her pockets. She removed a handkerchief and began to unravel it – slowly and delicately removed her offering.
There wasn’t any laud adulation coming from the onlookers. A few looks of disappointment, sure. Maybe a few giggles. No praise for her gift. It was too small. No one said anything.
“I tell you the truth this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.”
I. Our Culture on Giving
Doesn’t it seem strange for Jesus to say that? You almost feel like Jesus might need to head back to Kindergarten where he can grab a bunch of yellow plastic bears and use them to count that the woman’s offering was ridiculously smaller than the offerings that day. It was insignificant!
Because that’s the way our culture defines giving. We love to define giving by the amount.
Ever been to a hospital? Who makes it onto the wall? The big donors. They are the ones who get their names etched in stone and memorialized for all to see. Sometimes they even have a key on the side – ‘Copper plates mean copper donors – hundreds of dollars.’ ‘Silver plates mean silver donors – thousands of dollars.’ ‘Gold plates? – those are the super donors --- they have given over 500,000 dollars to the creation of this hospital!'
Do you ever fall into that trap? Maybe you look around during the offering. How much is that person giving? How many zeros are on that check? What size of a bill is everyone else putting in?
At Kroger, they’ve been doing this thing where they ask you to donate one dollar to Cancer Research right at the end of scanning all your groceries. Has it happened to you? It always catches me off guard. Sometimes I say “Yes” because I don’t want the grandma behind me to think I’m stingy. Other times, I say “No,” but then I explain, “Not this time. I give to a few others charities. I’ll keep this in mind for next month.”
Do I really need to explain myself? Does society really judge us on the basis of the size of our gift?
The answer is a definite “YES.” But more than that. We’ve regulated giving to the rich. In other words – we expect giving to come out of richness.
There is a YouTube video filmed by a man in Los Angeles. He’s rich, but he wanted to prove that very concept that our society expects giving to come out of richness.
So he dressed up as a homeless man. Then, he waited on the side of a downtown skyscraper. As people passed by in suits and ties, he got their attention.
“Hey buddy!” he said. (Oftentimes they’d keep walking because they didn’t want to give to him.) Then, he’s speak again, “No, no. I don’t want anything. I just want to give. I don’t have a lot in the world, but I do have the ability to give. So…here’s ten bucks. Buy yourself a lunch or something.”
How do you think people reacted? (How would you react?)
People were furious. They started calling him names and dropping four letters words. One man even threatened to punch his teeth him if he ever insulted him like that again. He was rich. He didn’t need money. And that guy was poor. “Giving wasn’t for him.”
Ask this question with me: Why do we think like this? Why do we insist that giving – true giving – can only come from the rich?
Could it be that if a gift isn’t measured by quantity – if a poor person could give a gift to God that is thousands of dollars less on the books – yet it’s just as rich in God’s eyes – then of what benefit is the gift to the rich? If giving doesn’t getting you brownie points before God, then…we’ll have to face our Almighty God in the cesspool of our sins. No amount of bargaining or bribing will change God’s mind. He will see us as the imperfect, unholy, holy wrath inducing creatures that we are.
II. The Greatest Giver
Which is why a correct understanding of giving is going to start with a correct understanding of the Gospel. A knowledge that God gave up all of his riches to save you.
I love this passage from 2 Corinthians 8:9. Take a look. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
This about our Lord Jesus Christ. He was incredibly rich. He resided in heaven above. He had copious amounts of whatever he wanted. Barrels full of lightning? Check. Golden lined streets of heaven? Yes. Diamonds and rubies and emeralds appearing on His fingers with a simple snap? Yes!
But he gave that all up. He was born in a place where cattle were fed. He grew up the son of a poor carpenter. He journeyed from place to place without any money around his belt. He was homeless! He slept on the ground. He, the God of sustenance, depended on others to sustain him!
Then, his life ended in the poorest of ways. All he owned was the crown of thorns piercing through his brow and the bloodstained cloth around his waist. Then, he gave up his richest possession – his own, Divine life.
Listen to that again. God who owns all things in the entire universe – gave it all up – including his life!
In doing so he donated to a charity that you know very well. Not the Red Cross. Not the Salvation Army. Not even WELS Home Missions.
He donated to you.
You were fresh out of righteousness. On the cross, Jesus gave you his.
You owed God a sin debt. With his debt, Jesus paid it in full.
You didn’t have any way to buy heaven. With his life, Jesus reserved a room specifically for you.
You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Here’s the deal then, brothers and sisters, if you believe in Jesus, then you are rich. You may not have a fully funded emergency fund. You may not own an IRA. You might not drive anything but a used car.
But if you believe in Jesus, you have peace. You have forgiveness. Things that Donald Trump, Bill Gates, and every members of the Forbes richest people’s club could not buy!
III. New Thoughts on Giving
1) Giving Comes out of Love.
Therefore, on account of Jesus – giving takes on a whole new meaning. Now giving doesn’t come from wealth. But giving comes from love.
1 Timothy 6:10 is a very famous passage and often misquoted passage. You’ll find all kinds of memes on the internet stating it incorrectly “Money is the root of all evil.” That’s not what the Bible says. Look at what is written: "The Love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”
It makes sense when you think about it. Dave Ramsey says this. Money is like a brick. It’s inanimate. It’s neutral. There’s nothing good or bad about it. You can pick up the brick and throw it through a window – bad. You can pick up a brick and build an orphan’s hospital – good.
Same with money.
You can use it to buy a nice car just to show off – bad. Or you can use it to provide a reliable, safe, nice car for your family – good.
You can use it to horde money in your sock drawer because you can’t bear to part with it – bad. Or you can use it to save up to send your child to college – good.
You can use it to give a gigantic offering to church just to get your name on the wall - bad - OR you can empty out your spending money for the month to buy a bunch of Evangelism fliers with the hopes that the message of Jesus the Savior might reach some – good.
Do you see the difference in each of those examples? It isn’t the amount of money. It isn’t the gift. It’s the motivation.
If you love money, bad. If you love God, good.
It’s why 2 Corinthians 9:7 says this, “God loves a cheerful giver.” Not God loves the one who gives $200 or more each week. Nope. God loves a cheerful giver.
2) Giving Comes out of Trust.
However…pump the breaks for a second. Because I guarantee a bunch of you saw that and thought, “God loves a cheerful giver? Phew…I’m not too happy about this offering I was gonna give today. So, let me just take a moment and rip this check up and never look at it again.”
That’s not what God is saying to you with 2 Corinthians 9:7. It’s not a license for you to say, “I don’t feel 100% happy about this, so I’m not gonna give this.” If that were the case, pretty sure we’d be bankrupt.
Before you resolve never to give God another cent, look at the verse that immediately follows. 2 Corinthians 9:8 says this, “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all time, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
In other words – Giving doesn’t just come out of love. Giving also comes out of TRUST.
Isn’t that exactly what the widow did? She had nothing left. Yet she gave it all up. Out of love, absolutely. God had given her a wonderful husband and a blessed life. But also out of trust. She trusted that God could and would give her everything she would need in the coming days to continue to serve God on earth. And if he didn’t, then she’d get more than she could ever dream of in heaven.
Do you trust God? He won salvation for you on a cross. He paid a debt you couldn’t pay. He has a storehouse full of infinity of everything!
Do you trust God to take care of you?
Today’s challenge is to consider increasing your offering. Whatever it is. I’m not naming numbers, because it isn’t about the amount. But I am asking this. Can you take another step forward in trust and give a bit more to the work of your Lord?
For us – we use the money to share the Gospel. To start with it’s the building which we use to share the Gospel. Then, it’s my salary – which isn’t commissioned based – so I don’t get more for you giving more. Let’s be clear on that.
Then, it’s Evangelism. We use gifts to share Jesus love to those in Raleigh. Through a website. Through online ads. Through pamphlets and fliers and signs.Through invites and THANK YOU gifts.
And a big project that we are considering – the Expansion of Precious Lambs. It’s gonna allow us to connect with even more families and share the message of the God who loves them. It’s going to allow us to connect with little kids and teach the true message that Jesus Loves Them to them. It's gonna open opportunities to expand our youth group outreach during the week back in the Current Precious Lambs area. It's’ going to open up opportunities to start an English as a Second Language Ministry to share Jesus’ love with the many global members of our community.
In short – your gift will be a gift of love for God and trust in God. Amen.