Roger's Postings

Friday, November 09, 2012

Mark 12:38-44.                       Giving out of our poverty?                 11/11/12

 (38)  As he taught, Jesus said, "Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, {39} and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. {40} They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely." {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 fraction of a penny. {43} Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, 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."

As Jesus watches in a few moments time when the offering is taken up, what will he see? I have a pretty fair idea: Some will put envelopes with $100/$50/$5, some with a couple of coins; some will pass the plate on without even putting anything in it, feeling a little ashamed; others without a care or concern. At the end of the collection he will see that there is not enough to cover what has been budgetted for. That, I have a pretty fair idea, is what our Lord will see.

 But our reading here tells us that there is much more to it than that. Here he tells us, that he not only sees what is put on the plate, but he knows what is going on. He knows what we are up to; whether we are giving a lot or a little. He knows how much we have in the bank and how much we have been blessed with. Even more importantly, he knows our motivation for giving. He knows why we are giving what we are giving. So we might be able to fool the people around us, but we need to remember that we cannot fool our Lord – He knows.

 Here also remember, that this same principle is there in every other aspect of our lives as well: both in our church and community involvement; as well as in our speech, morals and ethics. Throughout our lives our Lord sees and knows. He can see beyond the outward appearances to reality and our thinking and attitudes.

So that being the case, let us think a little more deeply about this whole issue; and in light of this reading, seek to understand what it is that he is looking for and what he has in mind as he sees and knows what we are  giving and doing. The issue is highlighted here in this reading by the poor widow and a number of well-to-do church people. Jesus points out clearly the contrast between the two attitudes.

 In the first instance, he reminds us of those who are putting a great deal on the collection plate; and outwardly it looked terrific. They were doing the right thing, supporting the work of the Church; helping to maintain the priests and the facilities, as well as supportting the needy. So the church’s future is well and truly ensured.

From this reading however we understand that for a number of them, here is another opportunity to let it be seen that they are fine, upstanding members who are doing the right thing. They are letting it be seen that they are giving a good deal to the work of the Church. We are jolly good fellows.

 In the verses prior to this, he warns us to watch out for those people who run around, well dressed and greeting people all over the place: sitting in gatherings were everyone can see them; making long, flowery prayers to the envy of most.

 All the while, they are about their business, building up their wealth and popularity. Yes, even taking houses away from the widows; because of course, they are not able to keep up the payments. Perhaps, more to the point, because they could not understand the fine print of the contacts. ‘But, hey look, it is all legal and above board. Look, God wants us to be good stewards and successful. And remember we are giving more than our share to the Church.

 But what was it that Jesus say of them: ‘Watch out for them’ and Such men will be punished most severely. At the same time, he says that their offering is nowhere near the value of the two insignificant little coins that the widow had put in. They were only giving the left-overs; a portion of their own abundance. In many ways they were self-sufficient – having all they needed – or the means to get it; and by trickery if necessary. But they could take care of themselves – they were OK. But our Lord says, they have there reward here, but they are going to miss out on eternal life.

 The widow’s story however is quite different. One wonders if she perhaps isn’t one of those widows that those fine up-standing members hadn’t taken her house from. Anyway, here she is putting her offering on the plate: two small copper coins. Let us say 20 cents or maybe a dollar. Anyway she puts it in and moves on quietly. That is nice, isn’t it – a poor widow doing her little bit for the Church. I mean a dollar – now of course we know that it won’t go far – but she is doing her bit. So it is really lovely – even if it is insignificant.

 Yet what does Jesus say? She gave more than all the others. Jesus draws attention to her offering because it is significant: greatly so. Those two small copper coins?? What is going on here? Didn’t Jesus see what she put on? But, he did see and knows. He knew how much she had and how much she put on the plate: everything – all she had – two little copper coins. And she gives it to God.

She gives it to him – because he is her only hope; her only source of salvation. She has no husband and no source of income or welfare payments; no money and perhaps even no home. So her only help and hope is the Lord God himself. She knows she is in trouble, without his help. At the same time, she knows that he is the God who is true to his promises: that he alone can give her the things that she really needs. So she gives out of her poverty, and is highly commended because her trust is not in herself and the things of this life – but in God alone.

 There we see the big difference between that poor widows offering and that of the rich. They were giving out of there abundance – basically trusting in their goodness; what their wealth and their hard work, good connections and their wiles in taking others down, could give them. While on the other hand the widows only trust was in God and his love for her.

 Now that brings us back to where we started; what does Jesus see and know as he watches you and me? Elsewhere in the Bible we are told, ‘what does it profit a person if they gain the whole world, yet lose their soul.’ We are also reminded that we have no hope of gaining eternal life on own, because, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But most importantly that, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’

There it is, that we find that which truly gives life its meaning and purpose: the heart of life itself. God and his love for us is supreme. He died and rose again for us, so that forgiveness of sins, life and salvation can be ours as an absolute certainty. He has shown himself to be the Lord of life: not just in the ‘great bye and bye,’ but here and now also. We can look to him and trust that he truly cares for us and our world around us. But at the same time, we can see what results from a world that turns it back on him and seeks to live by its owns rules. That in turn surely turns us back to him and makes us even more reliant on him and his Word.

 That then being the case, we now seek to ensure that he is of greatest importance in our lives and that his work continues to be carried out here in our world. We here in our community are totally dependent on our Lord, and this will be refelected in everything we say and do; including our offerings to our Lord and the work of his Church. So we continually pray that our Lord will help us keep our focus, trust and our priorities on our Lord  and his goodness toward us. May he help us to have the right thinking at attitude when the offering plate comes our way; as well as in every other aspect of our lives.

 To conclude, let us remember that no matter how much we have and how successful we are, we too in reality are in poverty. Our only sure hope can be in the Lord; and without him we are in big trouble. But at the same time let us also remeber that he promises help and blessing to all who trust in him and his promises. So let us always look to him as our Lord and Saviour and place our complete confidence in him. For to him alone belongs all glory and honour, now and always.         AMEN

 Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish



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