The True Heart of Sacrifice.
Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, hsa given everything she has.” – Mark 21:3 NLT
Jesus and His disciples are standing in the Temple grounds. He has just had a discussion with the religious leaders regarding His authority. Three separate times they have approached Him, asking questions designed to trap and expose Him. But Jesus has graciously and effectively handled all their inquiries, even taking the opportunity to ask a question of His own. There in the Temple courtyard, He is on enemy territory. This is the domain of the priests and religious leaders. He is on their turf. And yet Jesus has just warned the crowd to “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they love to parade around in flowing robes and love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be severely punished” (Luke 20:46-47 NLT).
These were not exactly kind and gracious words. I can’t help but imagine that as Jesus spoke these words, He was able to look at the various priests, religious leaders, Pharisees and Sadducees walking around the courtyard in their flowing robes, trailing a retinue of dedicated disciples. But it is within this same environment, that Jesus points out the poor widow. While His disciples were probably enamored by the beauty of the Temple buildings and impressed by the pomp and circumstance of the religious elite, Jesus takes notice of the obscure and overlooked widow. Mark and Luke tell us that “he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box” (Luke 21:1 NLT). Jesus was people watching, but with a purpose. He was going to teach a lesson on giving for the benefit of His disciples. The process of giving in this context was a very visible one. The people lined up and one-by-one deposited their gift in the box. This would have been one of 13 different trumpet-shaped receptacles located around the Temple grounds. They were made of metal and the “dropping” of each person’s gift would have made a distinctive sound. And of course, the more you gave, the louder the noise. So it would have been noticeable when the rich deposited their gifts. Those waiting in line or standing nearby would have heard the clanking of the metal coins as they were dropped into the container. To the untrained eye, it would have appeared that the wealthy were giving more than anyone else. But Jesus points out a very important point when it comes to giving. It is not so much the size of the gift, as it is the degree of sacrifice required of the one giving. Jesus points out that this poor widow, who only put in two measly coins, had actually given MORE than anyone else that day. Why? Because Jesus somehow knew that her gift represented the greatest degree of sacrifice. In spite of her poverty, she had given everything she had. Her gift was truly sacrificial and not superficial.
Jesus is not so much denigrating the gifts of the others as much as He is pointing out the true motive behind giving. Our giving is not to be for show. It should not be done to impress. But it should also not be done in such a way that it requires little or no sacrifice on our part. If you think about it, God does not need our money. He doesn’t require our talents. When we give, whether it is our time, talents or treasures, we should do so as an expression of gratitude to Him for all He has done for us. He gave His Son so that we might have eternal life. But when we give to Him and we do it like the rich people Jesus saw – giving just a small portion out of their surplus – what does that communicate to God? We are giving Him something that costs us nothing. It is almost meaningless and of little value to us. But this widow gave all she had. She gave sacrificially and willingly. At the heart of true giving is sacrifice. It expresses to God that He has more value to us than whatever it is we are giving to Him. He is worthy of all that we have. He does not require that we give Him all, but He is not honored when we give what costs us nothing.
Father, too often I give to You out of my reserves or surplus. Or I give to you out of the dregs and leftovers of my time and energy. I give You those moments at the end of the day when I am exhausted and drained. I try to pray as I fall asleep, hoping that in some way that will honor You. I can so easily spend my money on my own needs and desires, giving to You something out of what I have leftover at the end of the month. Jesus pointed out this widow for a reason. It was not the size of the gift, but the heart of the one giving. May my giving, whether of my time, treasures or talents, be a holy sacrifice to You for all that You have done and continue to do for me. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men