Skip to comments."The Widow's Might" (Sermon on Mark 12:38-44)
Posted on 11/08/2009 11:33:59 AM PST by Charles Henrickson
The Widows Might (Mark 12:38-44)
Our text today is the story usually known as The Widows Mite. Its the story of a poor widow who goes to the temple and puts into the offering box two small copper coins, as our translation has it. But the King James Version had as the equivalent for small copper coins the old English word mites--she put in two mites. Thus the familiar phrase, The Widows Mite, m-i-t-e. But today I want to talk to you also about The Widows Might, m-i-g-h-t. For this story tells us as much about the widows might, her strength, her source of power to do what she did. Where did she find her might, her courage, to sacrifice even her last two mites? And where will we find such might in our day, in our lives? Thats what we want to find out.
So Jesus is at the temple in Jerusalem, hes brought the disciples along, and theyre in the outer courts on the way in. Jesus sits down to watch people put money into the offering box. Of course he can see more than just the action; Jesus sees the heart. Here come the rich and wealthy people. They can put in a lot, and many of them do. Large amounts of money. They can write a big check, with several zeros after the crooked number.
And then comes this woman, all by herself. Perhaps shes not dressed as nicely as the rich people. Shes a poor widow, apparently; at least Jesus could know that about her. She doesnt have a big fat checkbook to get out. Maybe its just an old, threadbare little pouch. She takes out two small copper coins--thats all thats in there--and she quietly drops these two small copper coins into the offering box.
Well, thats not very impressive, especially after all those large gifts. After all, that coin she dropped in was the least valuable coin in use at the time. The lepton (thats the Greek word) or mite (that was the closest old English equivalent) was worth less than a penny. So she dropped in two of these coins, big deal. I bet she had the smallest offering there that day.
Yeah, we might say, that chintzy little offering doesnt amount to much. But not in Jesus eyes! One small copper coin--half a penny. Two small copper coins--one penny. This poor widows offering--priceless!
Jesus calls the disciples close to explain why: Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.
In other words, in terms of actual amount of giving, those rich people with their offerings had her beat by a long shot. Her little gift could not compare. But in terms of percentage giving, proportionate giving, sacrificial giving--what she gave in comparison to what she had--this poor widow had the largest offering there that day. For she gave everything she had. You see, for Donald Trump or Warren Buffett to write out a check for a thousand dollars, or even a million--thats chump change for those guys. But for a poor widow to give all of her meager income, all she had to live on--well, that is remarkable. And so Jesus remarks on it. The widows mite is mighty impressive indeed.
Now at this point I could just say, Go and do thou likewise. Increase the percentage of your giving. Do you even know what the percentage your giving is, in comparison to your income and assets? Is it 1%? A half a percent? Hey, the poor widow gave 100%! All she had to live on. Cmon, get with the program! Get out your checkbooks! Youve got it! We need it! Lets have it!
Well, if I were to put it that crassly, I would not be doing justice to the text. I would not be doing justice to the gospel. I would just be dumping a heaping helping of law upon your heads. Try to shame you into giving. Or maybe puff you up a bit, if you do happen to give a larger percentage of your income, say, 10% or more.
Now there is a point here. If we have been rather low in the percentage of our giving, maybe we do need a reminder and a rebuke, because our giving has not been very sacrificial. Perhaps my low offerings are a reflection of my low level of love for God and my lack of zeal for the work of his church. For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also. And where your treasure isnt, that says something about your heart as well.
If we had increased levels of giving, and if were willing to use the money that has already been given, we could do a lot more for the ministry of the gospel, both here at home and especially around the world. Think of the ministries we could support, and have supported in the past: Luther Academy, promoting confessional theology around the world. Medical mercy teams to Kenya, putting the love of God into action. Issues, Etc., that Christ-centered, cross-focused outreach on radio and the worldwide web. Our own congregations radio broadcast and internet outreach, proclaiming the gospel of Christ to the Mineral Area of Missouri and beyond. These are the kinds of broader, more expansive ministries we could support with increased giving.
Has your love and zeal for God and the mission of his church grown cold? Whether in our giving or our doing or our praying, if we have faltered or slackened in this regard, we need to repent. Lord, forgive me for my apathetic, self-centered heart! For my lack of trust in you! Renew me in my love for you and my zeal for the gospel! Help me to reflect that in my giving!
The good news today is that God does indeed forgive you and renew you and help you! He forgives you for the sake of Christ Jesus his Son. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. The Son of God left the riches and comfort of heaven to come down into our hall of misery and sin, populated by greedy hypocrites and poor widows, and he himself became poor. He came and walked in our shoes, down the dusty roads of Palestine, getting hungry, getting thirsty and tired. Jesus saw the human condition, up close and personal, and he experienced it. He knew the rich and the poor. He saw the proud hypocrite and looked with mercy upon the poor widow and the publican who beat his chest in repentance.
Jesus saw all the sin and misery in this world--including our cold, lackluster hearts--and he did something about it. He bore the weight of that sin upon himself and carried it to the cross. That cross became the temple where he gave the greatest sacrifice of all--himself. Jesus gave 100%. His soul unto sorrow. His body unto death. His holy precious blood, shed on the cross for your redemption. No greater sacrifice could ever be made. Christ, the Son of God, giving himself for you. Jesus offering of himself is of such infinite worth that it covers all your sins and the sins of the whole world.
So, yes, God does forgive you. Be assured of that today. And he will renew you and help you to put your faith and your love into action. The Spirit of God, which you received in Holy Baptism--the Spirit will help you to grow in that grace, including the grace of giving.
For you see, when it comes down to it, what is so commendable about the widows mite is not so much the amount or even the percentage. What is commendable is that this poor widow gave her offering out of love for God and with faith in God to supply her needs. Her love for God was engendered by Gods great love for her. It was a response, a free and thankful response to the Lord who had showered his love and care upon her and upon his people.
And the widows mite was an act of faith, faith in God to supply her needs. She trusted in God to take care of her, even if she put in everything she had, all she had to live on. For God had promised to do just that, and God is faithful to his promises. The widow, in particular, had the promise of Gods care. The laws that God gave to Moses for Israel put a special hedge of protection around the widow and the orphan, the least powerful and most helpless people in the land. In our readings today, we heard how the Lord took care of the widow of Zarephath through the prophet Elijah. In our psalm we heard the promise, The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless. This kind of care for the poor and powerless--that when you have nothing else and no one else to rely on, you can rely on the good Lord to take care of you and provide for you--this was the promise that this poor widow was trusting in.
Dear friends, you can trust in this promise too, whether you are a widow--weve got a number of them here in our congregation--or whatever your circumstances, poor or rich or anywhere in between. You can trust in God, your heavenly Father, to take care of you. He took care of your greatest need, didnt he, when he sent his only-begotten Son to be your Savior and to give you eternal life. Will he not also with him give you all things and take care of you now in this life? Yes, he will! Yes, he does! He gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. Jesus says, trust in your heavenly Father to take care of you. He feeds the birds of the air, doesnt he? Are not you of more value than they? Yes, you are. He clothes the lilies of the field, doesnt he? Will he not much more clothe you? Yes, he will. You are Gods own children, children of the heavenly Father, purchased with the blood of Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Yes, dear ones, your Father will take care of you. You can trust his promise, just as this poor widow did. And that gracious promise of God will free you up to give and to love and give anything or even everything you have.
The gracious promise and loving care of God--that was the source of strength and courage for this poor widow. This was the widows might, m-i-g-h-t. And that in turn freed up the widows mite, m-i-t-e. And it will do the same for you.
And in his teaching he said, Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.
And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.
Could you follow up with a piece on Mark 12:40, to help keep the ravening wolves (Acts 20:29, so to speak) at bay?
You mean about the scribes, who "devour widows' houses"? Obviously, they were abusing their influence, in order to take financial advantage of those vulnerable women. I'm not sure what more you're looking for on that.
Yes, I know that this account (not a parable, btw) of the widow's mite could be misused in that way, as a sly form of "devouring widows' houses."
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