A Lesson on Giving - Section 2 (series: General Sermons)
by John Lowe
In vivid contrast to the scribes’ greediness was this widow’s devotion. They devoured widows’ houses; she gave all that she had to the Lord. The incident shows the omniscience of the Lord. Watching the rich people dropping sizable gifts into the chest for the temple treasury, He knew that their giving did not represent a sacrifice since they gave out of their abundance. Knowing also that the two mites she gave was her livelihood; He announced that she gave more than all the rest put together. As regards monetary value, she gave very little. However, the Lord judges giving by our motive, our means, and by how much I have left. This should be an encouragement to all those who have few material possessions, but a great desire to give to Him. The amount of an offering does not always signify the measure of love of the one who gives. Often a more important factor is what is held back. She out of her want (poverty) cast in all she had, everything she needed to live by.
Men see what is given, but God sees what is left, and by that, He measures the gift and the condition of our hearts. Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” He may have learned that from Jesus—“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. "For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Lk. 6:38) or perhaps from Paul (2 Cor. 6:1-15).
Jesus drew the attention of the disciples to this woman, who brought delight to His heart. The sound of her tiny offering as it dropped into the metal receptacle must have been pitiful compared with the rattling of the many coins given by the rich. They had apportioned a small percentage of their wealth; she had little, but all she had was given to God.
Many of the religious leaders were corrupt, but the temple was still the place where God put His name and where sincere people could worship Him. Jesus did not criticize the people for supporting the temple ministry, but He did notice what they gave. The proportion, not the portion, is important. Those who give “the widow’s mite” give their all, not their least.
It is amazing how we can approve of the widow’s giving and agree with the Savior’s verdict without imitating her example! If we really believed what we say we believe, we would do exactly what she did. Her gift expressed her conviction that it all belonged to the Lord, that He was worthy of it all, and that He must have it all. Many Christians today would criticize her for not providing for her future. Did this show a lack of foresight and good sense? Some men would argue that it does. But, this is the life of faith—plunging all into the work of God now and trusting Him for the future. Did He not promise to provide for those who “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33)?
44 for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”
Paraphrase: The rich gave a large amount, but in reality, it was just a small portion of their wealth. But she gave all that she had, and trusted God for her livelihood.”
This was the last event of Jesus’ public teaching. The act of this humble, needy widow seems to summarize all His teaching. She knew that God’s resources are unlimited because everything ultimately belongs to Him; therefore, she could willingly and joyously give all she had to Him, because she was in His hands. This was radical and revolutionary to the thinking of the scribes and Pharisees. But, unless we see that the teachings of Christ are both radical and revolutionary, we have missed the emphasis of His ministry. What is the radical and revolutionary idea presented here? It is that Christ evaluates and accepts the charity of the poor, by allowing those that have nothing to give, do a great deal of charity by ministering to the poor, and helping them, and begging for them, that cannot help themselves, or praying for them. Here, the Lord tells His disciples that even though this widow had very little;
she gave what little she had to the treasury. It was only two mites, which make a farthing; but Christ magnified it until its value exceeded the total of all the rest that was put into the treasury. Christ does not blame her for lacking discretion by giving what she needed for herself, nor does He say that it was her vanity that caused her to give along with the rich. Rather, He commended her generosity, and her willingness to part with what little she had for the glory of God, which came from a belief in and dependence upon God’s providence to take care of her. Jehovah-jireh—the Lord will provide.
Now many would have been ready to criticize this poor widow, and to think she did the wrong thing—why should she give to others, when she did not have enough for herself. After all, “charity begins at home”; or, if she felt she had to give it, why didn’t she give it to some poor person she knew? What reason could there be for her bringing it to the treasury, where it would be disposed of by the chief priests, who, we have reason to believe, showed partiality when doling it out? It would be hard to find anyone that would not blame this widow; therefore, we cannot expect to find any that will imitate her; and yet our Savior commends her, so we are sure that what she did was both good and wise. He could say of her, what he had said to another, “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” (Mk. 14:9).
If Christ says, “Well-done,” it does not matter what anyone else says. Therefore, we must learn these seven things:
1. That charitable giving is a good thing, and highly pleasing to the Lord Jesus; and if we are humble and sincere when we give, He will graciously accept it.
2. Those that have just a little ought to give out of their little. Those who labor and yet live from hand to mouth, must give to those that need: “ Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Eph. 4:28).
3. It is very good for us to deny ourselves our basic needs as well as our wants, so that we may be able to give more to the poor. This, Jesus said, is loving our neighbors as ourselves.
4. Public charities, such as United Way and Feed the Children, should be encouraged, for they bring the blessings of God to our nation. There may be times when these organizations are mismanaged, but that is not a good reason why we should not give to them.
5. Although we can give just a little to charity, if it is given according to our ability, and from the heart, it will be accepted by Christ.
6. We are to be praised, not only when we give what we are able, but especially when we give more than we are able, as the Macedonian churches, whose deep poverty abounded to the riches of their liberality, (2 Co. 8:2-3). When we give cheerfully to provide for others, even though we can’t logically afford it, as the widow of Sarepta did for Elijah, and Christ for his five thousand guests, and trust God to provide for us some other way to meet our needs, this is thank-worthy; this is “grace-giving.” Today, we are not living under the tithe system because that dictates what you must give. We are living in the age of grace where that which you keep for yourself matters as much as what you give to the Lord.
7. Pride of living and pride of giving are sins that we must avoid at all costs. How tragic that the leaders depended upon a religious system that would soon pass off the scene. How wonderful that the common people gladly listened to Jesus and obeyed His word. Which group are you in?
On Giving: The Lord watches how we give, and examines the motives of the heart. He also sees how much we give and measures the proportion, not the portion. An old epitaph reads, “What I gave, I have. What I spent, I had. What I kept, I lost.”