THE GOOD NEWS: Mark 12:41-44 — The widow's offering
Money is a big deal. It always has been, even in our reading in Mark. They watched as many people came to the offering box and put in large sums of money. Then the offering box was a large metal container and the money was all hard coins. Pouring a large amount of coins into a metal container was a loud and time-consuming event. Many people gathered around to spectate the occasion. It was the perfect opportunity to show off.
Times haven’t changed. People nowadays like to show off their wealth. It is in our nature to flaunt our possessions, however we can. Whether it’s the nice clothes we wear or the extravagant cars we drive. Now, I’m not saying it’s a sin to wear nice clothes or drive nice cars. However, it is a sin if these nice things become idols which you show off to others in order to boost your own ego. Money rules us. We are very protective of our money. It can be very difficult to give money away. If we don’t have money, then where will our food and home come from? Money is a needed object in American society.
It’s not always about refusing to give money, though. Sin works into every aspect of our lives. I’m sure there are wealthy people that give large sums of money to their church. That can be a great thing. But it also can be a displeasing thing to God. In Mark, many rich people were giving large sums of money, but it wasn’t them that Jesus took notice of.
No, the Lord was pleased with the widow who gave less than a penny. Was it because she gave so little? That seems unlikely. Was Christ pleased because she gave all she had? That seems more likely, but is it really because of the percentage that she gave? No. Would God be pleased with you if you gave him every single cent you had to your name today?
God’s not impressed by the percentage or the dollar amount you give. Could the church accomplish more with the rich people’s gifts than the gift of the widow? It would seem so. In a money-driven society, man can do more with large amounts of money than small amounts. However, God doesn’t work as man does.
God doesn’t need your money to work. He created the earth and all that dwells on it from nothing. He took the absolute nothing and made everything. He doesn’t need financing or your support. He is more than self-sufficient. So why does God ask for offering? It’s not a matter of financing, but of faith and trust.
He wasn’t pleased with the rich men because they gave from their abundance. They had plenty left over. Their trust wasn’t in God. Their trust was in money. We may not consider ourselves rich, but we are when compared to others who have less. Yet, we can struggle to give. This isn’t because we don’t have money or the things we need. It’s because our trust is misplaced. We view money as our livelihood. If we give too much of it away, then where will our food and clothes come from?
What pleased the Lord about the widow wasn’t that she gave so little, or that she gave all that she had. It was the fact that she gave in faith knowing that money wasn’t what provided all her needs. She gave trusting that even without her money, the Lord would care for her. It was her faith.
That’s what pleases the Lord today. He can care for His Church without money, but He wants us to give to Him, not to show off, nor withholding from Him. He wants us to give freely, trusting that He will provide for us just as He promised He would. After all, who is it that provides us with the finances we have? The Lord! All that we have is His. We are only willing to give God our leftovers to ensure that we still have all that we need, as if God would neglect to care for us.
The widow gave in a manner pleasing to God, but she was not perfect. I’m sure she had the same sin problems as everyone else. The only person that ever gave freely to God, trusting in Him for all things, is Jesus Christ Himself. He trusted God at every point in His life knowing that God would provide for all His needs. He gave all He had, even His life, for God. He died on the cross trusting that God would care for Him. And God did. He raised Christ from the dead.
The widow only gave as she did because God enabled her to. God had promised to care for her by sending a savior. And He did just that! It’s the same way that He has enabled us. God gave us His Holy Spirit and faith, which enable us to trust in the Lord. Even as the world gets so wrapped up in money, and as our sinful nature works against us to uphold money as our idol, we are enabled to put aside our earthly worries and trust that the Lord will provide. He has proven that to us when He provided His Son to pay the debt of death that was ours to pay.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t give large amounts because you don’t want to be like the rich men. I’m not saying to give small amounts to be like the widow. I’m not saying to give everything like the widow did. I’m saying that as a Christian you’ve been freed from the shackles of money, power, and the devil. You are free to give as a Child of God, knowing that the Lord will provide all you need. Indeed, He’s already provided that which you truly needed in His Son. That Son saved you from eternal death. It’s not about the amount you give. The Spirit works faith in you that trusts that your provisions don’t come from a dollar, but from God. You give freely as a Child of God because He is the one that cares for you and gives you what you need. He is the one who will bring you to live with Him forever. The Lord is pleased with you. Not because you bought it via your offering or any other work, but because Christ bought it for you by His offering: His death for your life.
Rev. Logan Landes is assistant pastor at Grace Lutheran Church. He can be reached at email@example.com.