Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
February 3, 2013
 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.”
-- Mark 12:41-44, ESV
I always approach the prospects of preaching on money with fear and trembling. I don’t want members getting the wrong impression that I base their value on the value of their offerings. And I certainly don’t want non-members to think for a moment that all the church cares about is money (which, thanks to the televangelists, is what many think).
So, I avoid the subject as much as possible. But I don’t know why. The Bible doesn’t avoid the subject, the New Testament doesn’t, and the Gospels certainly do not. All four Gospel writers go to great lengths to discuss money in narratives and parables. And no where does our Lord Jesus Christ get any more concerned about cash contributions to the kingdom than in Mark 12:41-44.
A church I served had an excellent television ministry. With state-of-the-art equipment, our volunteers did a great job. But, there were a few kinks at first. As I watched our initial broadcasts, I noticed the camera workers doing something that most of us wouldn’t do during a certain part of the service.
What do you do when the offering is taken? Most of us go to extremes not to notice what our neighbor is giving. But what did our cameras do? They followed the ushers around the sanctuary as offerings were given. I thought they probably shouldn’t do that, and during subsequent broadcasts they focused on the instrumentalists, or anything other than people putting in their tithes and offerings.
But what would Jesus do? What did Jesus do in this text? I’ll tell you what he did. Jesus peeked!
Jesus watched what the widow gave.
Actually, He watched what everyone was giving. Christ intentionally sat down in a place where He could get a good view of the offering plate. He stayed long enough to observe a large number of people make their contributions. Young and old, men and women, rich and poor, they all passed by and Jesus peeked at what every person gave.
Does this make you uncomfortable? Does it seem at least a little bit contradictory? Doesn’t the Bible teach us that giving is supposed to be a secret matter just between you and God? Well then, it’s okay for God to watch!
As a matter of fact, giving tithes and offerings to the Temple (Old Testament) or the church (New Testament) has always been a public matter. It is this way throughout biblical history. It has even been this way throughout church history. Less than a hundred years ago many Baptist churches published member’s names and the amount they had given the previous Sunday in the church bulletin. One church I served was so enthusiastic about giving that the members came forward, publicly, and gave their offerings by placing them in a chest (very similar to what was happening in this text).
Jesus watched what people gave because in His day, like our day, giving is an important part of public, corporate worship. Also, since giving is a command, the act of public giving in worship helps to build in at least a little bit of accountability (a discipline almost lost in the modern church).
So next time the offering comes up in worship, feel free to look around and watch. Just kidding! You probably won’t, and perhaps you shouldn’t. But Jesus did!
Even if you watch what people give, you still won’t know exactly how much people give, will you? Jesus did! He not only watched her give, He knew exactly how much she gave.
Jesus knew what the widow gave.
They didn’t have offering envelopes in Jesus’ day. So when He spied the offering plate, He could see the exact amount each person put in. If Jesus were here physically in this place today, His eyes might make many of us nervous.
But someone knows exactly how much you give. You know. The church treasurer knows. The IRS knows, if you take your contribution record and include it with your income tax return. So there is much about your giving that many people know. But there is one thing that probably only Jesus knows.
When this widow gave her offering, Jesus and His disciples and anyone else who cared to watch knew how much it was. But only God knew this: how much was left. Jesus said she gave “all she owned, all she had.”
Let me tell you this about your giving to the Lord by giving to His church. It is not just the amount you give that matters, it is the amount you have left. If you are like most professing Christians in America, you have over 98% of your income left after your offering to the church. That’s right, the average evangelical today gives an average of 2% to kingdom work. In most cases, this is sinful and harmful to the cause of Christ.
Storehouse tithing, giving at least 10% of your gross income to your local church’s budget, is not merely an Old Testament commandment, but a New Testament principle. I agree with another pastor I heard who said that any Christian who gives less under grace than a Jew would under law is a disgrace to grace. I will just say that God knows what percentage you give, and what percentage you have left, and you and I will give an account to Him one day for both percentages.
Now, back to our story, and the main point.
Jesus was impressed with what the widow gave.
Jesus did not criticize the rich people who put their sums into the offering. God knows any giving is good giving if it helps strengthen the church and broadcast the gospel. But Jesus was clearly impressed with the offering given by this poor widow. What was so impressive about it?
For one thing, even though this woman had been let down, perhaps even victimized, by the leaders of her church (ref. previous verses, Mark 12:38-40), she still gave her offering where it belonged. Your major offering does not belong to you, to television preachers, to mission organizations, or any one or any where else other than your local church. God will hold your local church pastors and leaders accountable for the way they use your offerings. He will hold you accountable on the faithful or unfaithful manner in which you give them.
Secondly, and even more importantly, she not only gave in the proper way, she gave with the proper attitude. She “gived” like she “lived.” Nothing she owned did she hold back from God. This, more than anything else, is what impressed the Lord Jesus Christ. It is living more than giving that matters to God. But when life is lived under the absolute Lordship of Christ, giving is one of many aspects of life that belongs totally to God.
The point is that Jesus peeks. And when He looks He sees things inside out and upside down. He is not impressed with what impresses us. Rich people strutting their stuff doesn’t do anything for God. Entertainers and athletes making millions are not on God’s short list of heroes. But poor widows, simple country folks, faithful preachers, committed church members who are willing to give God their time, all their talents, and all their treasures not only make Jesus peek, they make Jesus smile.
Don’t you want to put a smile on God’s face at offering time or at any other time? Then repent of any and all pride in your lifestyle, greed with your money, and apathy in your allegiance to Christ and His church. Step up to the plate, like this poor widow, and determine to give all of your life to the Lord Jesus Christ, then bring the appropriate offering He leads you to give. And don’t forget, Jesus peeks!
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org