Tuesday, March 06, 2007

What do you put in?

"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. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins,
worth only a fraction of a penny. 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. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in
everything--all she had to live on.'" Mark 12:41-44

This morning as I read this familiar passage, I am struck anew with an assumption in the passage. The assumption is: everyone gave. The rich and poor alike. Everyone gave to God's work in the temple.

There are some Sunday mornings that I pass the collection plate without putting something in. Most of the time it is because I forgot to write a check that morning. This doesn't bother me because I know that the check will be written either that night or the next day. It is not that big of a deal.

However, I wonder how many people pass the collection plate with no intention to give whatsoever. Many reasons exist why people don't give to God's work; I have said them myself and heard many others. They don't make much money. They can hardly pay bills, so they definitely don't have enough for giving. They don't have regular income. They want to know that the money is going to be spent well, so they only give to special collections. They just don't want to give. The reasons go on and on.

When I read this text, I notice that the focus of the text is not on how much was given. The focus is on the attitude that must have been present in the people giving in the temple.

This text follows a little pericope that makes this focus unmistakeable. Jesus warns about the teachers of the law walking around in flowing robes. They love to be greeted everywhere and have the most important seats. He says they devour widows' houses and make lengthy prayers. Everything is for show. Jesus ends by saying, "Such men will be punished most severely." Then, our text.

Now we understand why Mark put this pericope before. It helps make sense of the widow's giving. He is making a statement here. The statement is: don't give for show. Let your attitude be, "I am giving...period. Even if it means that everything I have to live on is really an insigificant amount. I am giving to the work of the Lord no matter the cost."

It is refreshing to think about for me. It means that I can release the anxiety I feel about how insignificant my giving seems to be. God is glorified in my giving when my attitude is adjusted.

Lord, encourage us (as your people) to check our attitude in giving. Encourage us to give without letting it consume our life. Teach us to trust you like this widow we read about. You can use our "two very small copper coins" for your glory just like you can use the "large amounts." Please be patient with us as we learn your ways. Amen.

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