By Kyle Campbell
In Acts 20:35, Paul reports one of the only sayings of Jesus outside of the gospel. Our Lord said, “It is more blessed to give than receive.” Part of being a Christian is knowing about not only our responsibilities, but also the acts that we perform which make us grow. On the Tuesday before Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus was at the temple and made an observation regarding giving (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4), which is of great benefit to us to examine.
It is helpful for all of us to be shown how we can be a better steward of the graciousness of God. Romans 8:32 says, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
Every person has an order of priority which he works around. Most Christians probably respect their relationship with God first, their family second, and their money and possessions third. If we understand our duty to God to be his servants and our duty to try to teach our friends and family, then what is our duty toward our money and possessions? The lessons at the temple teach us about the importance of our giving.
There Is A Treasury In God’s House
Some have erroneously tried to prove that church treasuries are unscriptural. However, the Scriptures support the fact that there was an established treasury for money given to the Lord. Jesus and his disciples had a treasury. They used their funds for their survival and to help those who were poor. John 12:6 states that Judas was the treasurer and Luke 8:1-3 states that various women contributed to the support of Jesus and the apostles
Furthermore, the saints at Jerusalem had a treasury. The funds collected for the help of needy saints were laid at the apostle’s feet (Acts 4:34-35). Barnabas, Ananias, and Sapphira all contributed to this need, although Ananias and Sapphira did so with a deceitful and covetous heart and were punished (Acts 4:36-37; 5:2). In Peter’s reply to Ananias and Sapphira, he made a distinction between church funds and the individual’s funds (Acts 5:4).
Other churches had treasuries also. The church at Corinth had a treasury (1 Cor. 16:1-2). The collection was to be made on the day when the church assembled, which was the first day of the week. This commandment would make no sense if the “laying by him in store” were to be done at home. The church at Philippi had a treasury (Phil. 4:15-17) and Paul took church funds to work at Corinth (2 Cor. 11:8; Acts 18:5). The Lord’s work takes money. Providing a place to assemble, paying a preacher, and helping the needy saints requires funds.
The Lord Watches The Treasury
At the temple, there were thirteen trumpet-like chests placed at intervals around the walls of the court of the women in the Herodian temple where worshipers could walk by and drop in their contributions. The phrase indicates that the Lord was continually observing the different people doing this. We cannot escape the fact that the Lord knows what we are doing (2 Chron. 16:9). The Lord is by no means indifferent to our actions.
It seems hard to believe, but when we assemble the Lord knows what is in your heart. He knows exactly what you think when you sing, pray, listen to a sermon, partake of the Lord’s supper and give. He knows it as well as he could watch those people contribute at the temple.
The Lord Knows Our Circumstances
The adjective “poor” in Mark 12:42 meant that this woman was in extreme poverty. It was used to describe a person who literally had nothing and was in imminent danger of starvation.
Just like the Lord knows our thoughts and actions, He also knows our circumstances. He knows when we are giving to our full potential. He knows when our heart is right.
The widow was in very different circumstances than her wealthy predecessors. The wealthy had given what they did not need. In so doing, they demonstrated no self-denial. But Jesus saw that she gave “all that she had.” He did not measure what she gave with what the others gave. The Lord will not measure what you give with what I give. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 that we reap what we sow.
Don’t you love the fact that God is fair? He will only judge us according to how we have “prospered.” However fair and equitable that system may seem, it can also be a double-edged sword. If we are greedy and do not have the trust of God in our heart (Matt. 6:33-34), we will be judged and held accountable for that attitude.
The Lord Knows Our Contributions
For the benefit of his Roman readers, Mark states that the woman put in “two mites, which make a farthing” (v. 42). Later versions say, “two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.” The word “mite” came from a word signifying “crumb” or “morsel.” The coins she contributed were the smallest forms of Jewish monetary denominations. Her entire contribution was worth about a quarter of a cent.
It is so tempting to measure the value of our actions quantitatively rather than qualitatively. Moreover, we are better judges of actions than of motives, and can see the outward conduct much clearer than the inward character. But the Lord reveals that he looks upon the inward rather than the outward man.
One of the most important aspects of giving which we must learn is that God loves a cheerful giver, not necessarily a big giver (2 Cor. 9:6-7). Our contributing to the Lord’s work must be given from a willing heart (Matt. 10:8).
Sometimes we are tempted to think that we give and sacrifice, but no one can ever recognize our effort and commend us (Matt. 6:1-4). However, our Father knows what we give. The commending will be done by God.
The Lord Teaches Us To Give
The functions of the church are financed and carried out by our contributions, but is that all there is to giving? Is there any deeper meaning to the contributing of our prosperity which God has given?
In 2 Corinthians 8:7-9, Paul taught of the deeper significance of giving. He said that giving demonstrated their graciousness (8:7), love (8:8), and the graciousness of Christ (8:9). The grace of God is manifested in giving. When we give something that means a lot to us, we come a little closer to understanding the grace of God as he gave his only begotten Son (John 3:16).
Giving also allowed the brethren to have equality (2 Cor. 8:13-15). There are many brethren all over the world who are desperate for funds because of physical and economic hardships. Let not their pleas fall upon deaf ears!
Paul commended the Corinthians as he observed their principles of giving. First, they gave liberally (2 Cor. 8:3). They were not ones to withhold their contribution from a good cause. Those brethren had a genuine concern. The saints in Judea needed to be cared for, and the Corinthians were willing to give what they really could not spare. Is this not what the widow did? Second, they did not have to ask or be asked (2 Cor. 8:3). Many Christians have to be “arm-twisted” to give. Can we not let go of what needs to be let go of? Third, they gave themselves first to the Lord (2 Cor. 8:5). If you are not willing to give yourself to the Lord, you will not find any joy in giving to the church, helping your brethren, or helping your neighbor.
The need to examine giving is constantly reflected in the need to examine our own devotion to God. How do you treat those possessions which are most valuable to you? What kind of attitude do you have toward them?
Giving to God of our means involves a lot of self-sacrifice in a society which tries to take a little more every year. Unfortunately, many times we tend to let what should be a “priority” fall to a point of contributing out of our overflow. We divide what is left over after all the bills are paid. God deserves more than that. God has been so good to us. We need to be good to him!
In Mark 10:28-31, Peter commented on the cost of discipleship but the Lord responded with the true cost of being a disciple. The widow had that attitude and she was not even under the New Covenant. Although she did not have the words of Jesus and Paul, she understood her duty to God. Perhaps she could teach us a few things.
If we know of brethren in certain parts of the world who are suffering, such as in the Philippines or elsewhere, then let us display the love of Christ and honor the example of the poor widow and sacrifice for their equality and well-being.
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