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Weekly Word

Entries in Money (1)

Tuesday
Sep292015

When a Penny is more Than a Dollar

Luke 21:1-4.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 27, 2015.

Today’s passage focuses on the religious giving of a poor widow in contrast with the giving of the rich.  It is important to remember that Jesus had warned his disciples of the sin of the religious leaders.  These sins included “devouring the houses of widows.”  So we have a system that receives monetary gifts to God from the rich and the poor.  Some people may despise such a thing outright.  However, Jesus does not point out that the widow shouldn’t give anything.  Rather, he is helping us to see how God judges and views our giving.  It is irrelevant whether the system has been corrupted by wicked men or not.  We do not give to churches, pastors, board of directors, etc…  Instead true giving is given to God and recognized by Him as such.   Anything beyond this becomes sin.

Jesus declares that the 2 coins the widow put in (equivalent to ½ a penny) is more than all the money the rich put in.  So let’s look into this and we will be drawing out some lessons on how to give to God.

We Give To God By Supporting What He Is Doing

When we talk about giving to God, whether money or our time and energy, we clearly mean something different than giving to another person or a company we owe a bill to.  God is immaterial and so giving to Him is not like giving to a person.  He has no personal need of the money or service we may give.  We should also be careful of simply thinking that we give to churches who receive the money on God’s behalf (like a middle man).  Giving to churches is only one area where we can “give to God.”  So what do we really mean by giving to God?

In Luke 12 Jesus associated being rich towards Gods with giving charity to the poor and needy.  Although we can do that through a Church, it is not necessary.  This is also demonstrated in the Old Testament.  Psalm 65:15 says that God is the Father of the fatherless and defender of widows (elsewhere it mentions He defends the poor, needy, and outsiders).  In Deuteronomy 15:11 Israel is commanded to “be open handed to the poor and needy.  The understanding was that when we helped the widow, orphans, poor, needy, and strangers, we were doing it in honor to God.  God receives it as if we did it to Himself.  This is what Jesus was pointing out when he said, “In so far as you did this unto the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

Another area we see giving happening is when the people of Israel were to help cover the costs of the Temple, its upkeep, and care of the priests.  If I were to try and boil this down to a simple answer I would say this: We give to God by supporting what He is doing.  In the Old Testament this meant that you gave to the temple and helped the poor around you.  God accepted this as a giving to Him.  In this we see that He commanded them to give some amounts, but they could also give voluntary amounts because of their devotion.

How should Christians see this today?  Well we have to ask ourselves, what is God doing now?  Scripture clearly tells us that God has taken a remnant from Israel and created a new people called the Church.  Thus we give to God when we put our time, energy, and finances into supporting the work which God has called His Church to accomplish.  We also can give to God through helping the poor and needy.  Our lives should be an overall support of what God is doing in these areas.

Not All Can Give The Same Amounts

In this situation we are talking about monetary giving.  But it is true in every area that we give that not everyone can give the same amounts.  This widow had very little money.  She could only give ½ a penny.  Whereas others came and gave who could give hundreds or thousands of dollars.  It is because of this that many churches, religious institutions, and religious leaders lose their way and become bloodsuckers on those who are under their leadership.  Monetary gifts that are large become a premium when we have lost our way.  Social rewards and leadership positions go to those who give the most when we have lost our way.  Such a corrupt process is what existed in the days of Jesus.  It is human nature to look highly on those who give large amounts of money.  The apostle James warns against such ways of favoritism in James 2.  “You have become judges with evil thoughts,” and “you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”  This is not love your neighbor as yourself.  Rather it is love those who give the most, more.  This should not be in the Church of God.  We are not all able to give great amounts.  This does not make us a lesser Child of God.  In fact Jesus is pointing out in this case that a ½ penny is more than thousands when it is harder to give.

Public Giving Can Become A Show

Although Jesus doesn’t point this out here, I will add this point because it is implied.  This is happening in the Court of Women outside the area where the sacrifices were offered.  Though the giving receptacles were on the side, they were visible nonetheless.  Thus Jesus looks up and observes people giving.  Public giving can become a big show that is more about being admired than it is about serving God.  What name do we put on the new wing of the Church?  Is it the biggest donor?  Why would we praise someone who give a great amount and never praise those who give small amounts?  Why would we praise each other at for giving to God?  It is one thing to encourage people in giving to God it is another to make a spectacle of it.  Public giving can be all about pride in our own ability.  It can be about the desire to impress others and be admired by them.  It can also create an emotional ownership over those things that we donate.  It is very common in churches for a certain person to donate a needed item and yet, then act as if the item belongs to them and they can dictate how it is used.  Such giving must be abhorred.  Compare that kind of giving to this poor widow.  It is most likely a public humiliation for her to approach the giving chest and throw in two little coins, when the next person comes up and pours in many large coins.  The noise alone would tell the difference in their giving.  There is too much showiness in the Church regarding this area of giving.

God’s Judgment Of My Giving Is Most Important

It says that Jesus “also saw” the widow.  God sees all giving that is done towards Him and all giving that isn’t.  He knows our heart and our ability.  Despite how little or how much we give, He has a judgment regarding how valuable our gift is.  As humans we say a person has given more because we see a dollar as more than a penny.  But that is the value system of this world.  God has a different valuation of our giving.  So are you giving for the recognition of religious men and religious institutions or are you giving to the One they are supposed to be serving?

Jesus says that the rich men were giving out of their abundance or excess.  Even if their motives are pure (no such judgment is given), they were giving what was relatively easy.  They would not go hungry that night because they gave.  Yet, this widow gave out of her poverty, or lack.  She was not able to cover all her needs and yet she still gave these two copper coins.  She probably would go hungry that night because she put in that money.  In fact Jesus says she put in all her living.  This causes a problem in our hearts.  Some would say that she is foolish to put in the last of her money to a corrupt system.  They would rebel and refuse to give.  Yet, even though this was true, God was working through even these corrupt leaders to reveal His plan to the world.  You see this woman wasn’t giving to a corrupt system.  She was giving to God.  That means her money is holy.  What do you think happens to leaders who abuse such gifts and use them for corrupt means?  The “system” is not the problem.  The sinful people running it are the problem.  Jesus is not coming back to save a system.  He is coming back to save people.  In fact her giving becomes a prophetic judgment against he system, but it is judged as righteousness to her.

The Wisdom Of Sacrificial Giving

This brings us to a challenge for our day and age.  Why is she giving “all her livelihood?”  This widow exemplifies the heart of a desperate person who has no option left but to either die or cast themselves upon God.  She could have spent her last two coins on one last comfort for her flesh.  But instead, she sacrifices it to God, and in doing so, she casts herself upon God.  This looks foolish to the world.  Surely, you are too poor to give to God!  But it is often the poor who sacrifice and give, whereas the rich give but a pittance of their money and often only when they are seen.

Such wisdom is not always evident in this world and in this Age.  However, in the age to come Jesus will manifest the great wisdom of such people as this poor widow.  How about you, are you giving all of your life to supporting the things of God?  Not just your money, but also your time, energy, and devotion?  Take time to pray today and ask God to give you wisdom about how you can be giving to Him by supporting His work.  Find a good group of Christians who are dedicated to serving God and stand alongside of them.  Don’t look down on those who can only “do” so much.  We are not all created the same.  But our value is in the eyes of our Lord.  It is to Him alone that we give.

PennyDollar Audio