SHOULD JESUS REALLY BE WATCHING OUR WEALTH?
Mark 12:41-44 41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
In the name of Jesus Christ, our Master and Savior, dear Christian friends,
If I tell you that God is watching over you all the time, does that comfort you or terrify you? It is so good to know that God never sleeps or even dozes off. It is so heartening to have a God who goes with you on your bus rides to school and on your overseas flights. It is so reassuring to realize that he is in the doctor’s office when you hear that life-changing news and in the dark alley when the GPS led you down the wrong road.
But if he is always watching you, then he sees what skeletons are in your closet and what is happening in the back seat of your car on a Friday night. He observes your sinfully-angry outbursts at home and your silently-decrepit thoughts in your head.
So, is it good that God is always watching you or not? And should he have the right to do so? Aren’t there certain privacy laws that he is breaking? Today, on this third week of our stewardship series, we ask specifically, SHOULD JESUS REALLY BE WATCHING OUR WEALTH?
That question is prompted by what is recorded for us here in Mark 12. Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. If he watched the crowd then, and he watches over us all the time, then he must be watching when we give our offerings as well. Does that comfort you or terrify you?
If it surprises you that Jesus sat down to watch people give their offerings, then it should surprise you twice as much to realize when he did this. This was Tuesday of Holy Week! Three days later, he would be hung on a cross to die. With the clock ticking away on what would be the hardest week of his life, what does Jesus do?
Note the details: He sat down in the temple courts, not to take a breather, but to watch the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. The Greek word is explicit here: Jesus was studying the people as they gave their offerings, and he did this for some time. For Lutherans who were trained to be discrete when they put their envelopes into the plate, the thought of Jesus sitting there— watching, staring, studying— makes us more than a bit uncomfortable.
Should Jesus really be watching wealth? If you and I were Jesus’ personal advisors, we would say absolutely not. “Jesus, you’ve got bigger fish to fry! Instead, you should watch for a place to eat the Last Supper. You should watch your step because the Pharisees are trying to trip you up. You should watch your back, because Judas is plotting to betray you.” But, our thoughts are not his thoughts, our ways are not his ways.
So Jesus did watch that day and what did he see? Many rich people threw in large amounts. That doesn’t seem all that surprising. We expect the rich to be big givers. But there is another insight that the Greek gives us: It seems as if these rich people were coming back to get in the offering line again and again. It may have been just to put on a “show” for others to see how generous they were. So, Jesus was not just watching the amount of their gifts. He was staring right through their reasons for giving.
Then Jesus saw another person. No one would have mistaken her for a big giver. A poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
Jesus watched her and then revealed what nobody would know. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
When Jesus watched Jerusalem’s givers, he saw the rich people give their thousands, but they had thousands left over. They went home to a warm house, a full fridge, and a cozy bed. They gave big gifts, but there was precious-little personal sacrifice behind those gifts. They gave some of the frosting on the cake, but they still had both cake and extra frosting left over.
The widow didn’t give some frosting off the cake, because she didn’t have any frosting or cake. Instead, she gave her daily bread! She didn’t give thousands. She gave only a few cents. The amount of her offering was tiny, but her self-sacrifice was total.