Calvary Road Baptist Church

“YOUR GIFT WORKS WONDERS”

Mark 12.41-44; Luke 21.1-4

 

In case you have not observed it in me to this point, let me admit to you now how excited I am about this year’s upcoming missions conference, with Ibrahim ag Mohamed, his wife, and two daughters, as well as our closing out speaker, Pastor Steve Van Winkle. I am persuaded it will be a memorable time for us all. Last year’s missions focus was Families By Faith with Pastor Bob Nolan, with some wonderful and surprising results brought to us by the Lord. This year’s theme is Your Gift Works Wonders, and my message this morning is intended to both inform you and challenge you about the truth of that statement. We begin, as is our custom, with the Word of God.

It is the Tuesday before our Lord’s crucifixion, the day after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This day will be our Lord’s final day of public ministry to the multitudes, so we should be mindful of some things: On His way into Jerusalem from Bethany early in the morning, the barren fig tree our Lord had cursed the day before was already withered.[1] Arriving in the courtyard of the Temple, the chief priests and the elders asked the Savior by what authority He conducted His ministry, with His response being to ask them about John the Baptist’s authority. He then taught some parables.[2] After a while, some Pharisees and Herodians attempted to ensnare Him with a question about paying tribute to Caesar. It didn’t work.[3] Then it was the Sadduccee’s turn to be disappointed, with their question about the resurrection and the woman married to seven consecutive brothers.[4] The Pharisees stepped up once more in tag team wrestler fashion when a lawyer asked a legal question that our Lord answered to the great delight of the crowd.[5] Turning the tables, the Lord Jesus Christ silenced His critics by asking about the Messiah’s descent from King David while at the same time being David’s lord.[6] His final public comments to the multitudes were denunciations of the scribes and Pharisees.[7]

It is likely that His enemies then left the Temple courtyard, licking their wounds and plotting their revenge. Though still in the courtyard and in full public view, our Lord’s public ministry concluded rather quietly, with observations and a comment about giving that are very applicable to us:

 

Mark 12.41-44: 41    And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.

42    And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.

43    And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:

44    For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

 

Luke 21.1-4:     1      And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.

2      And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.

3      And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all:

4      For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.

 

Three observations about this final event recorded for us in our Lord’s public ministry by way of introduction: First, take note of His isolation. Do you ever recall being amongst a large group of people but feeling as though you were still very much alone? We have that here. Though the Savior is obviously still in the Temple courtyard, Mark 12.41 gives the impression that our Lord walked over to a wall and sat down, where we read, “And Jesus sat over against the treasury.” We can understand why He would want to do that. His day has been long and grueling, with constant pressure from His enemies to ensnare Him by His words. At this point, He is tired and chooses to sit down. Precisely where He sits down is open to some debate, but Luke 21.1 suggests that He sat down beside one of thirteen trumpet-shaped containers that were placed against the wall of the Court of Women, the shapes being convenient for people to walk up and easily drop coins given as offerings.[8] On some toll roads in the 20th century, they used to have large funnels so drivers could slow down and toss a coin into the funnel to pay the toll without having to come to a complete stop. The principle was the same in the Temple, and the Lord Jesus Christ was sitting where He could look up and observe what those bringing coins to offer were doing. Interesting to me is how quickly the crowd dispersed after His enemies broke off their repeated failures to successfully challenge Him. It may be that since the show was over, they quickly lost interest and went about their business. However, even His disciples seem to have left Him alone at that point. One might wonder if they backed away from Him during the confrontation with His enemies. From His vantage point, we next learn of His observation. Mark 12.41 begins,

 

“And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury.”

 

Since most people did not know what He looked like, because no pictures of Him existed in those pre-technology days, no one seems to have paid attention to Him observing the people drop their coins into the receptacles. What He noticed was the number of rich people casting in many coins, as well as a certain poor widow who dropped in two of the smallest of the coins then in circulation. It took 132 of the coins she gave to comprise one day’s wages, suggesting how very poor she must have been.[9] So that He might comment on what He saw to His disciples and teach them a valuable lesson, notice the beginning of Mark 12.43:

 

“And he called unto him his disciples.”

 

Had His disciples already been nearby He would simply have begun to speak to them. However, they were at a distance from Him (for how long they had been distant we do not know), so it was necessary for Him to summon them that He might speak to them. Notice that our Lord does in no way criticize those who have given out of their abundance. He does point out to His disciples that the impoverished widow, by giving her two small copper coins, had actually given proportionally more than everyone else. There is a lesson in this.

Listen to what John Calvin wrote about this woman’s offering to the Lord:

 

In two ways this doctrine is useful, for the poor, who appear not to have the power of doing good, are encouraged by our Lord not to hesitate to express their affections cheerfully out of their slender means; for if they consecrate themselves, their offering, which appears to men to be worthless, will not be less valuable than if they had presented all the treasures of Croesus. On the other hand, those who possess greater abundance… are reminded that it is not enough if in the amount of their beneficence they greatly surpass the poor and common people; because it is of less value in the sight of God that a rich man, out of a vast heap, should bestow a moderate sum, than that a poor man, by giving very little, should exhaust his store.[10]

 

Thus ends the most visible portion of our Lord Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry that began three and one-half years earlier when He was baptized in the Jordan River by His cousin, John the Baptist, tested in the wilderness for forty days and nights, and then identified to onlookers by John the Baptist, who declared,

 

“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”[11]

 

It is significant that our Lord Jesus Christ chose to close out the public portion of His earthly ministry by pointing out to His disciples the largeness of what appeared to be the smallness of the poor widow’s offering. There are additional lessons for us to learn from her small offering in addition to the observations already made, that even the poorest of God’s people can and should give to Him, and that God’s concern is the level of sacrifice rather than the actual amount of money given.

Using this widow’s mites as a springboard for our consideration of your gifts to missions, allow me to suggest seven ways in which your gifts work wonders in God’s economy:

 

First, YOUR GIFTS DISPLAY THE VERY IMAGE OF GOD THAT YOU BEAR

 

In Genesis 1.26 we read that “God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” That is precisely what He then did, since the very next verse reads,

 

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

 

The question, of course, is whether or not mankind still retains the image of God, considering our sinful nature following Adam’s fall into sin. Genesis 9.6, describing conditions both after Adam’s fall and also after the judgment of the Flood that left only Noah and his family alive, reads,

 

“Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”

 

This verse, along with the totality of the value placed upon human life throughout the Bible, shows that not only was Adam an image-bearer of God in his innocence but that those descended from Adam are also image-bearers of God, even in our sinfulness.

I bring this up to point out that if even sinful men bear the image and likeness of God in some respect, there will be conduct and characteristics of mankind, traits if you will, that will reflect on the nature of the One whose image we bear. One of the most obvious characteristics of God’s nature is His willingness to give, as is best shown in John 3.16:

 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

 

God gave, and those who bear God’s image also give. And while we see generosity all around us, how can generosity be better demonstrated than by giving to accomplish what God gave to accomplish? God gave His Son. Missions giving is giving to proclaim His Son.

 

Next, YOUR GIFTS DISPLAY THE GRACE OF GOD TO OTHERS

 

If the Lord Jesus Christ’s observation of the poor widow giving her two mites illustrates truth about giving, then we can turn to Second Corinthians where the Apostle Paul explains truth about giving.

Turn with me to read Second Corinthians 8.1:

 

“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia.”

 

Notice what was accomplished when those in desperate poverty in the Macedonian churches gave to the cause of Christ.

Here the Apostle Paul informs the congregation in Corinth about the grace of God bestowed on the churches to their North, populated with impoverished members, whereby they were able to give despite their poverty.

My friends that is precisely what grace is, divine favor extended to the unable and undeserving. And it was put on display by those who had almost nothing, yet they gave. Grace is important. For by grace are you saved. It is when a Christian with little gives anyway that God’s grace is shown to others.

 

Third, YOUR GIFTS BRING YOU INTO FELLOWSHIP WITH OTHER GIVERS

 

Ever hear the complaint by some who attend a church that they feel like outsiders? I have heard such complaints for forty years but have never felt like an outsider myself. Want to know why? In part, it is because I was early on taught the importance of giving.

Look at Second Corinthians 8.4:

 

“Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.”

 

Here Paul rehearses to the Corinthians the actions of the Macedonians, those in the Philippian and the Thessalonian congregations. Upon learning of an opportunity to give Paul had not told them about because of their poverty, they pleaded with him to be permitted to join with others in giving so that they might participate in “the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.”

Mark my words the next time you hear someone who grumbles about feeling left out, about not feeling like he is a part of the congregation, of feeling lonely and isolated. That person is not much of a giver, because when you join in with others in giving you are no longer an outsider but an insider.

Those who bellyache about feeling left out are sometimes people who want to be insiders without paying the price of being an insider, which price is participation, including giving. So, if someone mentions something about feeling like an outsider, you might want to suggest participating in our church’s outreach, #1, and giving to our church’s missions projects, #2.

 

Fourth, YOUR GIFTS SUGGEST A GREATER GIFT ALREADY GIVEN

 

We see this brought forth by the Apostle Paul in Second Corinthians 8.5:

 

“And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.”

 

Of course, especially in the United States with its legacy of Christianity in days gone by, we see generosity in the form of charity giving at Christmas time, annual television crusades, and the astonishing willingness of so many people to give to help poor animals while thinking nothing of the millions of babies aborted each year.

Of course, this exhibits perverse and distorted inclinations to give as a reflection of God’s image being marred by sin. What I would like to point out is Paul’s explanation of the Christians in Macedonia who gave despite their poverty.

In the verse, we just read Paul observes that the Macedonian Christians actually gave three times when they gave money once, and their gifts placed in Paul’s hands was secondary to their first gift of giving their own selves to the Lord and their second gift of giving their own selves to Paul. That is also true of you.

Those who do not give to the cause of Christ withhold money because they first withhold themselves while those who give to the cause of Christ do so after they first give themselves to the Lord afresh and anew. Thus, the money you give is never the greater of your gifts given to the Lord.

 

Fifth, YOUR GIFTS PROVE THE SINCERITY OF YOUR LOVE

 

Notice, in Second Corinthians 8.8, that Paul turns from his report of what the Macedonians had done by their giving to what the Corinthians could accomplish by their gifts:

 

“I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.”

 

There are two very important conclusions to draw from Paul’s comments directed to the Corinthian Church members: First, notice that he writes, “I speak not by commandment.” This is extraordinarily important. Those Corinthians did not have to give. Indeed, the point of all this is that the Macedonian Christians did not have to give, although they did give. It’s exactly the same with you. You do not have to give though I sincerely hope for your sakes that you will give. Next, Paul observes to the Corinthians that, although they did not have to give, if they chose to follow the example of the Macedonians who gave, it would prove the sincerity of the Corinthians’ love.

Interesting word that Paul chose to use here, this word translated sincerity. The Greek word refers to a child that is born in wedlock and, therefore, has to do with legitimacy.[12] Thus, when a professing Christian gives to the cause of Christ that person’s act of love is thereby shown to be legitimate, resulting from it being genuine. So much for those who claim they love Jesus but who refuse to give to the cause of Christ.

 

Sixth, YOUR GIFTS SET AN EXAMPLE FOR OTHERS TO FOLLOW

 

For this one we will remain with Second Corinthians 8.8:

 

“I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.”

 

While giving to the cause of Christ was told to the Corinthians by Paul to be a proof of the sincerity of their love, in establishing that point we must not overlook what Paul writes in the very middle of the statement:

 

“but by occasion of the forwardness of others”

 

What does this mean? It means that the example of the Macedonian Churches, those poor brothers and sisters in Christ in the Philippian Church and the Thessalonian Church, was effective in spurring the efforts of the Corinthians also to give.

Turn to Second Corinthians 10.12 for a moment, so I can show you something:

 

“For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”

 

Some would think that it is wrong for Paul to point out to the Corinthians what the Macedonians did because it violates the principle he outlined in Second Corinthians 10.12. However, that is not so, as First Corinthians 2.13 illustrates:

 

“Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”

 

It is a terrible thing to compare your deeds to another’s deeds for the purpose of concluding that you are superior and, therefore, better than another person, or for the purpose of condemning yourself. However, it is a wonderful thing to look upon the godly conduct of other Christians as examples to follow and as proofs that as God’s grace was sufficient for them, it will also be for you.

It is commendable for a child of God to be conscious that we are all examples to others so that we, therefore, set good examples for others to follow. What would our church be like if every member gave as you give?

 

Seventh, YOUR GIFTS ARE A MEANS OF GOD’S GRACE AND GLORY IN YOUR LIFE

 

Let us conclude this morning’s message by taking note of Second Corinthians 9.6-15:

 

6      But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

7      Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

8      And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:

9      (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.

10    Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)

11    Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.

12    For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God;

13    Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men;

14    And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.

15    Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.

 

My goodness, I could preach for weeks from what we have just read. That said, with time running out let me point out only three things about Paul’s urgings to the Corinthians to give, so that you too will give: First, skipping over the law of sowing and reaping being applicable to giving and receiving in verse 6, notice verse 8, where Paul points out that giving is a means of grace from God to be enabled to do every good work. Thus, do right and God will bless you to do more that is right. Next, verse 13 shows that as others receive the benefit of your giving, they will, in turn, be prompted to glorify God. And since our ultimate aim is to glorify God and to see God glorified, this only makes spiritual sense. Finally, notice verse 15, where Paul thanks the Corinthians for what he anticipates them doing. In like manner, I look forward to you responding to the great need. And what is that great need? There are two: First, we need to raise money between now and Easter to help a missionary's congregation secure the building they are meeting in so it won’t be sold out from under them. Second, our ongoing giving to missions needs to grow to increase the level of support of our newer missionaries.

 

At Calvary Road Baptist Church we do not employ high-pressure tactics or salesmanship techniques when it comes to missions giving and pointing out the needs that we seek to meet by God’s grace. I will not tell you sad stories to evoke tears or arrange for sad songs to be sung to move you emotionally. I seek only to set clearly before you the truth of God’s Word about His plan for meeting the need and advancing the gospel, expecting God to work then in your life to respond to His truth. Your gifts, no matter how small, are useful to God to accomplish the task that is set before us. The need is great. Ramzi needs a lot of money. Therefore, if you can give much, I urge you to give prayerfully much. Give $5.00. Give $50.00. Give $500.00 or $1,000.00. Give $10,000 or $100,000. The money is needed and will be well-spent. Our missionaries are extremely conscientious about matters of integrity and good stewardship. That said, the seemingly small gift given by the widow accomplished a great deal, and provoked comments from our Savior to His apostles about her personal sacrifice that we need to pay attention to. Your gifts work wonders.

By giving you display the image of God that you bear.

By giving you display the grace of God to others.

By giving you come into fellowship with others who give.

By giving you suggest a greater gift that has already been given.

By giving you prove the sincerity of your love.

By giving you set an example for others to follow.

By giving you establish a means of glory and grace in your life.

 

Therefore, in anticipation of your gifts, I thank you.

 

__________

[1] Mark 11.20-21

[2] Mark 11.27-12.12

[3] Mark 12.13-17

[4] Mark 12.18-27

[5] Mark 12.28-34

[6] Mark 12.35-37

[7] Mark 12.38-40

[8] C. E. B. Cranfield, The Gospel According To Mark, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977), page 386

[9] Joel B. Green, The Gospel Of Luke, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), page 728.

[10] Cited by C. E. B. Cranfield, page 387.

[11] John 1.29

[12] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 202.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org