"Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury."
Jesus sat, and he watched what people gave. I wonder, how would my giving change, if I knew that Jesus was watching me give?
I hope this week you've received one of these forms in the post. And I hope at some point over the next few days you'll take time to sit down and fill it in. And I hope that before you do that, you take time to think and pray about how much you're going to give this year.
Perhaps you'll decide how much you're going to give by taking your pay slip, dividing it by ten, and giving that much? 10% was the tithe that was commanded in the OT, so perhaps you'll decide that's how much you'll give?
Perhaps instead, you'll sit down and you'll make a budget. You'll work out all your regular monthly costs, like food and rent. You'll work out your annual costs, and divide those by 12. And then you'll add a bit on for rainy days or emergencies. You'll add all of that up and then whatever is left, that's what you'll give to the church? Perhaps that's how you'll decide how to give?
Or perhaps you won't do either of those things? Perhaps you won't look at your pay slip, or at your budget, but you will pray, and you'll ask God for wisdom. And then you'll give however much you think is right.
I don't know how you'll decide what to give (and I'm not going to tell you how you should decide either!)
But I do want to ask you the same question that I ask myself. If Jesus sat down and he watched what you give, what would he think?
This morning we're going to look at a time when Jesus did just that. He sat down and he watched as lots of different people gave. And then he called his disciples and told them to notice just one of those people. And he holds that person up as a model for all of us. A model of giving that pleases God.
Interestingly she was the person who gave the least amount of money of anyone. But Jesus shows us that her giving was greater than anyone else's.
This morning we're going to look at how one widow gave. And, with Jesus, we're going to see, giving that gives glory to God.
Look at v41a...
"Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury."
It was Passover time. Jerusalem, which would normally have had a population of about 50,000, would have close to a quarter of a million people crowded in. All of them were there to celebrate the festival of Passover. And the temple was at the heart of the celebration. So the place would have been packed.
And crowds of people would have been lining up to put their offering into the temple treasury, to give their gifts towards the work of God. And so Jesus found a seat and he watched as the people gave. He watched them give but he would also have heard them give.
You see records tell us that the money for the temple treasury was collected in 13 boxes or chests. And each of which had an opening, made out of brass, which looked like an upturned trumpet. So as you threw your money in (which was all coins back then) you could hear it.
As Jesus watched, v41, and as "Many rich people threw in large amounts," you can just imagine how loud it would have been as bags were opened and dozens and dozens, maybe even hundreds, of coins were poured in.
Then we read v42…
"But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny."
When the rich people threw in their large offerings, you could hear their generosity. But when this widow comes and puts in her offering, there is hardly a sound.
Compared to the rich people she put in almost nothing, just "two very small copper coins (the smallest form of currency in those days) worth only a fraction of a penny."
Perhaps some of the rich people had thrown in 1000s of pounds? Maybe even 10s of 1000s of pounds? And then this widow puts in just a fraction of a penny. Something you find down the back of the sofa, or keep in the ashtray of your car. Change so small, that most people wouldn't even notice it.
But Jesus noticed, v43…
"Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.'"
This widow, with her "two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny" had put in more, according to Jesus, that all the rich people who threw in large amounts!
Her two very small copper coins were worth more than their large amounts. Now how is that possible?
How could her gift be worth more than theirs? It doesn't make sense does it?!
It doesn't make sense, to us. But it does to God.
Her pennies, her fractions of pennies, were worth more to God, than thousands of pounds. Her two very small copper coins, pleased God, they honoured God, they gave more glory to God, than all the large amounts throw in by the rich.
What I hope you're starting to see is that giving to God is not quite as straightforward as we might have thought.
How had this widow put more into the treasury than all the others? How could her gift give more glory to God than theirs? Well, Jesus tells us in v44. In v44 he explains why her gift was so great, and why it is a model for us to follow.
And the first thing we see is that it was…
Look at vv43-44 again…
"Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything - all she had to live on.'"
In 2013 Bill and Miranda Gates gave $2.6 billion to charity. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, gave $992 million.
Isn't that wonderful?! I think it's great that they gave that money away. But Jesus tells us that the greatness of our giving is not measured in its value, but in how much it costs.
Bill and Miranda Gates gave $2.6 billion but they have a personal wealth of $80 billion. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan gave $992million but it's estimated that he makes over $9 million every day.
Now I'm not trying to criticize Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. I'm trying to show that what Jesus says is that one of things that made this widow's offering so great, is how much it cost. Look at v44. The rich people, "gave out of their wealth; but (the widow gave) out of her poverty."
The fact is when you've got tens of billions in the bank, well then, giving away one or two is no great hardship. Your standard of living isn't going to drop. You're not going to have to give up anything to make ends meet. But when you've got nothing, or next to nothing, giving that away is costly.
The widow's giving was sacrificial. It would cost her. Giving those two very small copper coins to the temple had an impact on the rest of her life. It would change the way she had to live and the way she could live. And the amazing thing is Jesus tells us that, as far God is concerned, when our giving is costly, it's worth far more.
Do you see? Bill Gates gave away $2.6 billion, but this poor widow gave away much more. And so could you and I.
How you spend your money, or what you spend your money on, shows what you value.
If you chose not to buy any new clothes this year but to save your money to go on holiday, well that shows how much you value holidays. Or if you decided not to take the family away on holiday this year but to save the money for a deposit on a house, well that shows how much you value where you live.
When our giving is costly, when we give something up, so that we can give to God, that shows how much we value God. That gives God glory.
So as we fill out our giving forms we need to ask ourselves, 'Does my giving reflect what I value? Is my giving costly?'
Secondly this poor widow shows us, giving that gives glory to God is…
A quarter of a million people were in Jerusalem that week. And I can only imagine that tens of thousands of them would have taken the opportunity to come and put offerings in the temple treasury. So what difference would "two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny" have made?
If we had been there, and we had seen this poor widow make her way to the place of offerings and reach out her hand to put these two coins in, wouldn't we have been tempted to stop her and say, 'It's ok. You keep them. You need them more than the temple does'?
These two little coins meant almost nothing to the temple. But to her they were enormously valuable, they were everything she had. So why did she give them to the temple?
And it wasn't the law that compelled her to give. In Lev 27v32 it's talking about the tithe when it says this…
"…every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd's rod – will be holy to the LORD."
That meant that you were supposed to tithe a tenth of your wealth. If all you got all your sheep or cattle to walk passed you, then every tenth one was to be given to the work of the temple. But do you see, that rule also meant that if you were poor enough to have less than ten sheep, then you didn't have to give.
Do you see? This poor widow had almost nothing. What she had would make almost no difference to the running of the temple and she wasn't required by the OT law to give anything. So why did she give? And why did Jesus value her gift so highly?
I think the answer is, because she gave out of love.
How you spend your money, or what you spend your money on, shows what you love. It shows what you treasure. It shows who you treasure. And by giving away these two copper coins, the only money she had, it showed how much she loved God.
And isn't it interesting that this widow had two very small copper coins?
She had two coins. So if she had wanted to she could have just put in one. She could have given 50% of all that she had. 50% would have been amazing! But she didn't do that. She gave it all. She gave not because she had to but because she wanted to.
And by giving her gift out of love, she gave glory to the God whom she loved.
So as we fill out our giving forms we need to ask ourselves, 'Does my giving reflect what I love? Is my giving, loving?'
This poor widow is a model of giving that gives glory to God. But just before we look at the third reason why her giving gave glory to God, I want us to stop and notice something. What she gave was very little.
In the world's eyes, it wasn't valuable at all. But to God it was worth more than all the large amounts that were thrown in that day.
Let me say to you, perhaps you think you don't have much to give to God? Perhaps you know there's not much money in your bank account. Perhaps you feel as if you don't have many gifts or talents or much time or much energy that you could use to serve God at church? Well if that's what you think or how you feel, then can I say, don't despise small things. Because God doesn't. This widow had only two very small copper coins, but her giving was a great worth, and it gave great glory to God.
And the third reason her giving was so great is that it was...
Be honest…how do you feel about that last line? v44…
"'They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything - all she had to live on.'"
Does that leave you feeling a bit…uncomfortable? "She put in everything – all she had to live on." Doesn't that sound just a bit, irresponsible? The sort of thing that looks great in a film, but would never work in real life. Had she really thought through the consequences of her actions?
I find it hard to read this story without those thoughts popping into my mind. I find it hard not to read this and think that she was being just a little bit reckless. But Jesus doesn't think she was being reckless.
And that's because her giving showed who she trusts.
From the world's point of view what this widow does makes absolutely no sense. They would say that she was just another poor person who had been taken advantage of by the religious leaders who had brainwashed her into giving away what little she had to live on. It makes no sense whatsoever, if you don't believe in God.
But if you do believe in God, and, more importantly, if you know that your life is in his hands, then it makes perfect sense. Not because you're using your last few pence to try to buy his favour but because you love him, and you know he already loves you.
Do you see? How you spend your money or what you do with your money shows what you trust. It shows who or what you have put your trust in.
It's not wrong to invest your money or to save it in banks or building societies. It's a very sensible thing to do. But if you put your trust in money and banks and savings. If you're trusting in them to make you happy in this life, or to save you in this life, you will soon discover that no matter how much you save you will always be poor. Because you will never feel secure, never truly satisfied and never at peace.
But if you put your trust in God, then in this life you can be secure and satisfied and at peace. Because in the next you will be with him in paradise.
So as we fill out our giving forms we need to ask ourselves, 'Does my giving reflect what I've put my trust in? Is my giving, trusting in God?'
"I tell you the truth, this poor widow put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on."
This reckless gift, wasn't reckless at all.
But it was costly. It cost her all she had.
And it was loving. It came from the heart.
And it was trusting. She put her life into God's hands.
As you and I sit down over the next few days and fill out our giving forms, I wonder how we will give. And I wonder if our giving will give glory to God?