2021-03-21 “Give What You Think You Can’t Spare”

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          March 21, 2021

“Give What You Think You Can’t Spare”
Mark 12:41-44

We continue this week in our brief series of events and teachings from Jesus’ final week of public ministry.  Let’s review the ground surveyed thus far.  Two weeks ago, we heard to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.  Last week we heard the two-fold love command; we heard to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength—and to love our neighbor as ourself.  Today we hear Jesus teach us about giving.  I think I hear, to my trepidation, something to the effect of, “Give what you think you cannot spare.”  Let’s hear the Holy Spirit expound this further unto us in the reading and preaching of God’s Word in this place today.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

As the passage opens, Jesus sits down—likely after the lengthy teaching and disputation just completed (Mark 11:27-12:40).  The crowd heard Him gladly, while the Jewish religious elite—so often chastised by Him—hated to hear Him.  Jesus, sitting, may well be weary, as to his humanity (cf. John iv.6), from effort expended in teaching and disputation.

He sits near the offering box.  The box, located within the Temple complex in the Court of Women, had thirteen trumpet-shaped conduits leading into it.  Each conduit funded a different part of Jewish religious life, and the people funded these parts mostly by free-will offerings.[1]  Jesus sits, watching who puts what into the treasury.

Many rich folks put in large amounts.  After all, it is the week immediately prior to Passover, and many make the pilgrimage from wherever they live to Jerusalem—as the Law commanded them to do.  Some of the rich, likely, put in large amounts of money from ability and drive to help.  Others, likely, put in large amounts merely to be seen of men—a practice denounced by Jesus in His teaching (cf. Matthew 6:1-18, e. g.).  Jesus continues to watch—and presently He sees something, and someone, quite different from what He has seen heretofore.

A poor widow—one without resources, standing, or, perhaps, support—approaches the box.  She places in the conduit of her choice two lepta (plural of Greek lepton [lepton]) in the box.  The lepton was the least-valuable coin in Roman currency; one denarius equals one hundred twenty-eight lepta.  She contributes two lepta, equal to a kodrantes (kodranthV), another coin of small value, which equals one sixty-fourth of a denarius—a day’s wage for a laborer.  Hence, she contributes, in today’s value, about $1.35.[2]  We know not who else notes the poor widow’s contribution, but Jesus does.

Jesus, calling His disciples, instructs them and us.  He says, solemnly, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.”  How can this be?  The other contribute large amounts, yet she contributes very little by comparison—very little, in fact.  Jesus continues, “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.”  Let’s dwell for a moment on this.

The rich here give from their more than enough.   They can spare what they give—and that perhaps easily.  They perhaps, even likely, feel no pain to part with their gifts.  The poor widow gives not from her more than enough.  She gives despite her evident, nearly desperate, need.  She cannot spare what she gives, and she likely feels pain to part with her gift.  She gives, proportionally, far beyond what the rich folks give—and He Who sees the deed, Who also sees the heart from which the deed sprang, commends her in the hearing of His disciples and of everyone who hears the Gospel.

These of the resources we have at our disposal: our time, talent, and treasure.  We may perceive abundance or lack in these areas, as our circumstances and viewpoints change.  Yet, no matter our perception, often God calls us to give of these—and His call upon us is no burden, and well may be a great pleasure to our souls.  At least once in a while, however, God calls us to sacrificial expenditure of time, talent, or treasure—and here’s the rub.

Yet God is infinitely worthy of these expenditures He calls us to make.  When He calls us to spend and to be spent, we do such and are such as an act of worship unto Him.  Moreover, He is able to restore our expenditures—often far beyond what we spent.  This was Paul’s Spirit-led point to the Philippian Christian households when he said, “And my God shall supply your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians iv.19), for the Philippians contributed sacrificially to Paul and his ministry time and time again.  Let us, therefore, by the powerful grace of God, in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, working powerfully and sweetly within us, give what we think we cannot spare.  May those for whom we spend ourselves receive blessing, may we receive blessing in the spending, and, above all, may our triune God have His rightful glory.

AMEN.

[1] John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament, Mark 12:41.  1746-48.  https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible (accessed March 19, 2021).

 

[2] A denarius, as we noted last week, is analogous today to twelve hours of work, no overtime, at minimum wage—or $7.25/hr. times 12 hours, or $87.00.