By Pastor Michael Cofer
Text: Mark 12:38-44
A few weeks ago we read the story of the rich young man who, despite wanting to follow Jesus, simply couldn’t give up all of the world wealth that weighed him down. Looking at that story, I think it’s easy to relate to that guy. It’d be hard to give up all that you have, wouldn’t it? I mean could anyone really do that?
Then we read this morning, not one but two separate accounts of widows giving their very last to God. And reading those stories, I’m filled with questions.
Like, why? Why did the widow give an offering of the last two pennies she had? Is this something she wanted to do? Did she feel that she had to? And shouldn’t the church have been caring for her – not the other way around?
Then again, how much are two mites going to buy you? Maybe a bite of bread? Maybe. But with his “great wealth,” the rich young man had some real buying power. So he had much more to lose, right?
Deep down, I think that’s how we feel about it, but it’s really faulty logic. I’ve known plenty of folks who don’t have great wealth – they’re struggling to cover bills every month – and they don’t have an easier time giving to God than their more affluent counterparts in the church.
It’d be easy to make this a stewardship message about proportional giving – but I don’t think that’s really the point that Jesus is trying to make. The person he honored was the one who gave all. The same thing he asked of the Rich Young Man and doesn’t see, He witnesses in the Poor Old Widow.
Could it be possible that however much God has given of you, He wants you to give it all back? Or, maybe if you aren’t ready to tackle that question head on, maybe it’d be worth asking “Why did he give you the wealth that you have?”
Before you say, “What wealth?” let’s keep the widows in our scripture readings in mind. I feel pretty confident that none of us are literally as poor as them. So back to the question, “Why did God give you the wealth you have?” The answer should be obvious. Every gift he has given you – your talents and abilities, your time, and even your wealth – are meant to bring him glory.
Notice that Jesus honors the widow, but He also condemns the scribes and the teachers of the law. They made a show of their offerings, but Jesus describes them as “devouring widows’ houses.” I’m not tell you that you need to put more in the offering plate. That might be true, but it doesn’t replace your God-given responsibility to take care of the poor and needy around you.
God is not glorified when his people flaunt their wealth. Glorifying God with our riches doesn’t mean wearing expensive clothes to church. It doesn’t mean slapping a church bumper sticker on an expensive car. It doesn’t mean hanging a painting of Jesus in our palatial house.
Glorifying God with our riches looks more like giving our clothes to the needy – not just donating them to Salvation Army, but handing them to a brother or sister in need. It might mean taking a homebound person to the grocery store or church in whatever car we have. It might mean giving a displaced family a room or two to stay in, or taking in some foster children.
Glorifying God with our riches means not just acknowledging that it all belongs to Him – it means using it in the ways that He would use it.
God wants it all –not just so that He can accomplish good with it – but so that we can learn that the security we think it brings is just an illusion. It isn’t actually the money in my bank that will ensure I eat tomorrow. It isn’t really my mortgage payments that ensure I have a refuge from the cold.
I am 100% at God’s mercy. And the sooner I learn this fact, and the deeper it seeps into my soul, the freer I will actually be.
Consider the Widow of Zarephath. Everyday she gave the last that she had to honor God. And the next day there was enough for that day. Everyday, God asked for 100% of what she had. And everyday God gave her 100% of what she had.
This is why Jesus taught us to pray for daily bread. Everyday we depend on God’s grace a fresh. Just like His forgiveness and mercy are new each day, so are the material blessings He gives. He can be trusted with all that we have because He provides for us everyday.
God loves you. More than the birds of the air. More than the flowers of the field. Whether we realize it or not, whether we believe it or not, we all are at God’s mercy. We are not in control – He is. All that we are and all that we have belong to Him. And as long as we love and trust our stuff more than we love and trust Him, this is a scary thought.
But as our love and trust in God eclipses our love and trust of his blessings, we will discover that living at God’s mercy is a great place to be. He gave His all for us – His very life – to save our lives, to pay for our sins, and to claim us as His own. A God who does that can be trusted completely with all that we have and all that we are.