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.
She gave until she had nothing left—and at that very moment she still had absolutely everything. She had her Lord. She had his promises and his gift of faith to trust those promises. So, she trusted she could give beyond her ability.
Would you have talked her out of it? Would you have told her to keep her offering so she could get something to eat for at least another day? Why?
We’ve got this enduring thought that giving primarily has to do with the wallet when what Jesus is really watching is the attitude of our hearts and the actions that follow. Simply put: Do we trust God or don’t we? That’s a “yes” or “no” question.
There is only one reason why we would fail to give God our firstfruits and that is because he isn’t first in our hearts. There is one overriding reason why we wouldn’t practice the principle of proportionate giving and that is because we’ve forgotten that God is always the owner of everything. There is one major reason why we would fail to practice sacrificial giving: We don’t believe that God will truly care for us. When is the last time that we, like the widow, opened up our hands and gave sacrificially— gave as if we really trusted in God and staked our future on his promises?
Have you ever wondered how the widow’s story ends? God doesn’t tell Mark to tell us. But knowing what you know about the faithfulness of the Father and the sacrifice of the Son, do you really think that Jesus let the widow go home and starve to death? Nothing gives us the impression that after commending the widow’s gift that Jesus was ignorant of what the widow needed! The widow gave her all trusting in the God who gave his all, his everything, his Son for her.
God offered his all, his everything, his Son for you. Jesus didn’t offer two coins for your salvation, but the two treasures of a perfect life and an innocent death! Jesus bled and died to forgive you when you coveted copper more than Christ and trusted silver more than your Savior. Jesus’ hands were pierced for your deceitfulness, your doubting his care, your disregard for his Word and all your other sins.
To this day, Jesus opens his crucified hands and fills our desires with good things. In him, we have the forgiveness we crave and the motivation we desperately need to open our hands and give in a way that glorifies God and cares for our neighbor.
As children of God, we can be comforted to know that Jesus is watching us. It is a good thing to know that Jesus is still watching his people’s wealth. What will he see as he watches you?