4501 Waller Rd E
Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost
November 1, 2015
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA
Paul Naumann, Pastor
GOD LOVES A FEARLESS GIVER
Grace, mercy, and peace be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son
of the Father, Amen. The text for this morning's message comes from the 12th chapter of the Gospel
of Mark, vs. 41-44, as follows:
Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And
many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a
quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this
poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of
their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood." Here
ends our text.
In the Name of Jesus Christ, Who said, Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be
added unto you, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
When is a thousand dollars worth eleven million? I'll tell you. In 1964, when investment expert
Warren Buffet took over a holding company called Berkshire Hathaway, its shares were selling for
$19. Since then they've increased somewhat; that stock closed Friday at over $204,000 a share! That
means that, if you had the foresight to invest a modest $1000 in the company in 1964, you'd have
nearly $11 million today! But of course, in order to make such an investment-and to hold onto it
over the years-would require complete confidence in your own financial judgment.
Not many of us are that confident about our ability to predict the future. That's because there' just
so much uncertainty about what's going to happen down the road. When it comes to most areas of
life, you just can't say for sure. But there's one exception. In our text for today, Christ teaches us
that, when it comes to Christian stewardship you can be absolutely fearless. For there is no way
you will lose when you invest yourself in God. We all know the passage that says God loves a
cheerful giver. But our text for today shows that --
GOD LOVES A FEARLESS GIVER
I. It takes no courage to give God the leftovers.
II. A fearless giver gives his whole life to the Lord.
Why am I preaching on stewardship today? Because today is Stewardship Sunday, that day in the
church year when we traditionally focus on stewardship, or what we give to God. In some churches
it seems like every Sunday is Stewardship Sunday. But I must say that in all my years as your
pastor, I've seldom spoken about stewardship except on this Sunday. That's because this
congregation has seldom had much of a problem with giving. We've had plenty of challenging
issues to deal with, but it seemed like money was never really among them. Now it seems as if the
Lord may be testing us in this area. Energy costs and other expenses are continue to rise and have
raised our budget needs. For a long time our budget goal was around $1000 per Sunday. Now our
treasurer tells us that our current needs are closer to $1200 per Sunday. That seems like a lot for a
group our size. Well, it doesn't seem like a lot, it IS a lot. Is it more than we can do? An average
person might say yes. Is it more than God can do? NO! It's well within His power, particularly if He
has a group of believers to work with who are faithful and fearless. For you see, GOD LOVES A
Our text for today proves it. It was early in holy week, and Jesus was in the great Temple in
Jerusalem. He had just finished a scathing condemnation of the Jewish religious leaders. He was
particularly critical of the greedy scribes, who often used their very religion as a pretext to get
money out of people - even poor people. In the passage just before our text Jesus says, "Beware of
the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best
seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows' houses, and for a
pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation." - Mk 12:38-40. The scribes
gave tithes of everything they possessed, but their hearts were far from God.
By way of contrast, Jesus now moves to an area of the Temple called "The Treasury." It was a
place where worshippers would come to bring their offerings for the Lord. Only they didn't pass a
plate around, like we do. Rather, the people would file past a series of thirteen brass,
trumpet-shaped receptacles, each one for a different church fund. One by one, the people would
throw their offerings in. Scholars tell us that there would often be a crowd of people watching as
the various givers cast in their offerings. The crowd would note carefully how much was given, and
whether the coins were gold, silver, or copper. There would be murmurs of admiration when a
wealthy person cast in a particularly large sum of money. Today however, a special observer was
present in the treasury, One who could see beneath the surface. One who could read, not only the
value of the gifts, but the hearts of the givers.
Our text says, Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the
treasury. He "saw" it. That almost makes it sound like He took a quick look around and then left.
But in the Greek it's clear that Jesus sat there for some time. He carefully observed each giver. We
don't think about it very often, but this must be the same way He carefully looks over every gift and
offering today, including those in our congregation. It's well for us to bear in mind that there's
Someone who carefully observes not just the amount of each gift, but what's in the heart of each
giver. For scripture says, "The LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward
appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." I Sam 16:7.
Our text says that many who were rich put in much. And what was Jesus' verdict on rich gifts of
the wealthy and the scribes? They were large gifts, many gold coins ostentatiously dropped into
the offering in full view of the admiring crowds! But Jesus isn't impressed. If you add up all those
rich people's offerings, He tells His disciples, they wouldn't come anywhere even close to being as
valuable as the widow's two small coins. Why not? Because GOD LOVES A FEARLESS GIVER.
And you don't have to be fearless to give God the leftovers.
Jesus sharply discounted the rich people's offerings. Why? Because "…they all put in out of their
abundance." Literally, they gave of what was "superfluous" to them. What was extra. What they
could easily afford to pay. They gave God the leftovers! Is that what you give? Leftovers? You
wouldn't serve leftovers to a guest in your home - do you serve them to God? It takes no courage at
all to give God your leftovers. You don't have to be brave to say, "Well, I've got ten dollars left in
my wallet and I'm getting paid tomorrow, so I guess this will be my offering for the Lord." You don't
have to be fearless to give God your leftovers. In our NT Lesson we heard Paul say, He who sows
sparingly will also reap sparingly. -- 2 Cor 9:6.
I read an interesting article the other day. It was by a Roman Catholic priest. He said he had spent
thousands of hours in the confessional booth, listening to the sins of his parishioners. He'd heard
every kind of sin confessed, including some quite shocking ones, but one sin that he never once
heard anyone confess was greed. I wonder why? Certainly scripture has a lot to say about greed,
and the love of money. In fact the Bible says that …the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,
for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through
with many sorrows. 1 Timothy 6:10. Is that what makes us bring our leftovers to God, instead of our
It may be greed, but often it's simply fear. Fear that, if we give too much to God, we may not have
enough for ourselves. One commentator had an insightful remark about this story; he said that God
judges us less by what we give than by what we keep. We just got done singing, "Take my silver
and my gold, not a mite would I withhold." Did you really mean that?
Sometimes a meager offering is simply the mark of a person who hasn't yet given himself to God.
Who hasn't yet learned that the Lord is so faithful and so trustworthy that, even when you give
back to him what you can't afford to spend, there's still no way you can lose. The wealthy
show-offs in the Temple gave much, but that took no courage, because that was just their
leftovers; they kept far more for themselves. No, what GOD LOVES IS A FEARLESS GIVER. And a
fearless giver is one who first gives his whole life to the Lord.
Jesus didn't have long to wait for His example of fearless giving. Soon He caught sight of a woman
dressed in poor clothing. She had finished her worship and was bringing her small offering to the
Lord. And what that woman did was really rather astonishing when you look at it closely. Our text
says, Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. This was really a
small amount of money, by the way: two copper coins called lepta, literally two "thins." A lepta was
the smallest coin in circulation in Israel at the time. The gathered crowd ignored the woman, of
course. With all the high rollers coming past and dropping in their gold coins, no one was
impressed by this poor widow and her pennies. …No one, that is, but Jesus!
Jesus was very impressed. So much so that He deliberately called together His disciples and
pointed her out to them. Here's something important, He told them. This you have to see! He called
His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in
more than all those who have given to the treasury. Her offering is worth more than all theirs put
together, Jesus said. Why? Because …they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her
poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood."
Wow! You want to talk about fearlessness! There was no social security or food stamps in ancient
Israel. Women who had lost their husbands and providers sometimes died of starvation. Yet here
was a woman who was not afraid! Here was a poor widow who had the courage not only to give
God a portion of her meager goods, but everything she had. All the money she had to live on!
Christ, in His omniscience, was able to look into this woman's heart, and He saw there a person for
whom such fearless giving was possible, because she had already given her whole life to God. She
had already learned the lesson that God cares for His children no matter what. She'd already
discovered the truth that you can't outspend God. It reminds me of the story of the farmer who,
when asked how he could give so much to the church answered, "Well it's like shoveling grain out
of a bin. I keep shoveling it out, but God always seems to shovel it right back in. And God's got a
God does indeed have a very big shovel, and He likes nothing more than to demonstrate his
generosity to those of His faithful children who have given their lives to Him. Bring all the tithes
into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the
LORD of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such
blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. Malachi 3:10.
We Lutherans don't have a rule or requirement for giving, so it's not all cut and dried as soon as
you sign up as a Lutheran. That's a decision you have to make for yourself. What guideline should
you use? One writer said, "I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I'm afraid the
only safe rule is to give more than we can spare." The widow gave way more than she could spare.
She gave everything she had.
Can you think of anyone else who gave more than he could spare? How about someone who gave
His only Son? Someone who sacrificed His only Child on the cross of Calvary in order to pay the
price of the world's sins? Our Heavenly Father was the original fearless giver. He sent His only Son
into the world to live a life of poverty, and to die the agonizing death of crucifixion, so that you and
I might be ransomed from eternal perdition. For God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us,
that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor 5:21. God has redeemed us with the
blood of His Son! In Christ He has opened the doors of heaven wide before us! Now doesn't that
sort of put monetary issues in a little better perspective for us? What's money compared to that!
Given that fact, given that our Heavenly Father has already sacrificed His most precious
possession for you and me, what is left for us to fear? If God is for us, who can be against us? Do
you think it's possible for you to give such a big offering to God that God won't be able to restore
that amount to you, that He won't continue to sustain you and provide for you? It sounds a little
silly when you put it that way, doesn't it? Paul asks the same rhetorical question when he says, He
who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also
freely give us all things? Romans 8:32.
So be fearless! Take a chance! Go out on a limb and give to God more than you can afford. You'll
never lose by it. In fact it's the safest investment you could ever make. Jesus said, "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." -- Luke 6:38
And don't be discouraged if your sacrifice is like the widow's, the unsung kind. The kind that
doesn't get noticed by a lot of people. Don't ever think that your small acts of devotion - your
faithful attendance here at church on Sundays, your modest offerings, given in a heart of faith, the
time you spend devoted to a study of God's Word - don't ever think these go unnoticed by God, or
that they're not important to Him. Maybe that's how the widow felt. If it was, then she was way
wrong! Unbeknownst to her, the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth was watching her intently.
Jesus saw her devotion. He saw her gift and correctly evaluated its worth. In Jesus' eyes, what this
widow did was of the utmost importance. So important, in fact, that He made her an object lesson to
His disciples. So important that He immortalized her in the pages of Holy Scripture. I wonder what
that widow would have said that day if she'd know that her example would serve as a model and
inspiration to believers for twenty centuries!
Do you think your sacrifices are less important to Jesus than hers were? They're not! He sees
them, and He sees your heart of faith that offers them. And ages hence, when you meet your
beautiful Savior face to face in heaven, He'll say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were
faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' --
Did you ever wonder what happened to the widow later on, after this episode? The Bible doesn't
really tell us. Or does it? Maybe it does! For doesn't the Bible say Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass"? --Psalm 37:5. And don't we read in the Psalms,
Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him.
--Psalm 32:10 And isn't it the prophet Isaiah who promises, You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You"? Isaiah 26:3. And wasn't it King David who said, I have been
young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging
bread. Psalm 37:25. I think we know how this story ends. That widow wasn't forsaken. She didn't
starve to death, or anything close. God continued to care for her and provide for her as He does all
His children. She was a fearless giver, who gave her whole life to God. And that being the case, I
think this is one lady about whom we can safely say: she died a very rich woman. May God bless
all of us with the same kind of faith and courage, AMEN.