A husband and wife were on a safari adventure in Africa. They had viewed some of the ancient pyramids and enjoyed a boat ride along the Nile River. On one of the last days was a desert trek in the Sahara Desert. Each previous day they had stayed with the group guided tour, but on this last day they wandered away from the group only to return to the group spot finding the group bus having left.
The couple was panicked and decided to hike on foot. Their wandering left them stranded for multiple days. The husband felt extremely guilty for leading his wife to wander away from the group. They were dying of thirst, literally. They finally found an old shack with a well in front. Inside the shack was a table with set on top a mason jar of crystal clear water and a note. The note read: “Do not drink first. Please use this water to prime the well pump outside. Once you are satisfied, refill the jar and leave it back on the table for the next person to pass this way.”
The couple weren’t certain they could rely on the note instructions and they were extremely thirsty. They had not way of knowing if the well was dry or still functioning. They had to make a decision to serve themselves now or invest and take the chance the well was deep with endless water.
Our giving to God is like priming the pump of God’s blessings in the life of a believer. We have a choice to take the little and consume it for ourselves. Or, we can use allow God’s provision to be poured out and prime something that offers an abundant well of blessing. Our choice is defined by our faith in the depth of the well.
EXAMINE Mark 12:38-44 Jesus and Giving
Jesus is watching our walk (Mark 12:38-40).
Throughout the Gospel of Mark is the question, “Who is Jesus?” The Gospel communicates the identity of Jesus from the opening words of “Jesus Christ, Son of God” (1:1). Further, Mark shows us that Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit of God the Father, the Messiah, Teacher, Healer, Miracle-Maker, Lord, and Bridegroom of the Church. However, not everyone affirms the identity of Jesus. The Jewish religious leaders were constantly questioning and mocking Jesus for His identity. The authority of Jesus is increasingly being challenged towards the end of the Gospel. And yet, Mark shows us that Jesus is not just a doormat being bullied but divine presence that cannot be silenced.
Jesus speaks against the scribes as “professional believers.” They show their expertise with eternal trappings of clothing [στολή – long robes with extended borders (cf. Mt23:5) in contrast to common clothing], and eager for attention with public greetings beyond the temple in marketplaces, and seeking the best seats in the synagogues or feasts.
- Beware of routine or professionalization of faith.
Professionalism has little to do with the affections of Christ and aim of Christian ministry. The more professional we try to make Christianity, the more hypocrisy and death we leave in our wake. Professional Christianity is about power and politics, but Christ calls us to sacrifice and service. We are not called to be professionals, but childlike (Mat 18:3). We are not called to be professional in relationships, but unconditionally compassionate (Eph 4:32) and crying shoulders (Rom 12:15). We are not to be professional worshipers, but people who pant after the living God (Ps 42:1). We are fools for Christ’s sake, but professionals are refined. We are weak, but professionals are strong and invulnerable. We are in disregarded but professionals are held in honor. Our lifestyle is with the hungry, the helpless and the hopeless while professionals enjoy the material riches of this world. When we are reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we humbly reconcile; we are like the scum of the earth while the world dines on silver (1Cor 4:8-13).
We must banish the professionalism of our faith and replace it with poverty of spirit, passionate and dependent prayer, rigorous obedience to God’s Word, unrelenting labor for God’s kingdom, and radical love for people who are perishing. O God, rescue us from professionalism and renew our humility and hunger for Jesus.
Jesus is weighing our giving (Mark 12:41).
Mark further describes Jesus as sitting and watching people (12:41). A small but not insignificant description about Jesus in contrast to the religious leaders. The author of Hebrews describes priests and religious leaders as frequent standing and performing work (Heb 10:11). However, Jesus is able to sit in the temple and on His throne because His identity is certain and His work is complete (Heb 10:12).
Specifically, Jesus is watching the giving of worshipers. People would voluntarily place money in the offering boxes. Jesus views both the rich placing large sums of money in the offering and the poor [πτωχός – begging poor] widow place two small copper coins (lepta – 1/100 of a denarius) in the offering. What does this tell us? It’s a subtle reminder that God is watching our walk and evaluating (weighing) our giving.
God cares much about money.
- 16 of 38 Jesus’s parables related to wealth.
- 1 of 10 verses in Gospels are about stewardship; Jesus spoke more of money than heaven or hell.
- Over 2,000 verses in NT on money, while 500 verses on prayer, faith, and others.
Large amounts of our life is spent earning and making money, as well as spending, saving, and sharing it. So, it makes sense that God gives us guidance on how to view money.
It is worth mentioning that Jesus never condemns the wealthy gift. He observes their gift and later remarks they gave out of their abundance (12:44), but Jesus isn’t seeming to disparage or deny their offering. In other words, giving to God can start at any level; whether you start in single digit amounts or percentages, or larger and sacrificial sums.
- So, start giving to God based on your faith. If you have small faith give small, and if you have great faith then give greatly. I realize that statement may sound arrogant, brash, or even greedy. My aim isn’t to insult but to influence you to trust God on whatever level you start your financial giving to God, and not just your finances – but your time and service too. Besides, if you read Scripture on money and giving to God, the amount we give is based on the level of our faith in God’s care and provision for us. Here is a sampling:
Proverbs 3:9-10 “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.”
Malachi 3:8-10 “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”
Luke 12:32-34 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with treasure in heaven that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
2Corinthians 9:6-7 “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”Top of Form
Here are some additional application insights on giving
- Giving is to God.
The widow could have thought:
- “This temple is so large and they don’t need my gift.”
- “These Pharisee leaders are so legalistic, and the Sadducee leaders are a bit liberal and heretical. I’m going to keep my gift.”
- “I need my money.”
- “I don’t need to show up, look at all those people at Passover; look at all those chariots in the parking lot.”
- Instead, she voluntarily gave to God not one but both coins, even as a poor widow.
Instead, our giving is to God. It’s not to the church, to a person, or an agenda. Your giving is not buying shares of SPBC to hold future sway or stock in a pastor to produce future rewards. (Hmm, what if the less you gave the longer the sermon and more you gave… nevermind!) Our giving is to God, and when it leaves our hands into His hands then there’s freedom from money being our master and our faith grows, seeing Jesus multiply the gift to produce faith in others. Can you envision there will be people in heaven because of your giving to support ministries, outreach, and missions?
- Giving is worship.
When you have a heart for God you will give to God. Our giving is part of many actions expected of those who believe in and worship God. Outside of salvation, giving is one of the most important decisions you will make in your relationship with God.
- Proverbs 3:9-10; 11:24; 1Cor 16; Matthew 6:21-33; Acts 2-4
- Goal is discipleship not donors.
- Offering is participatory. We pass the plates and take a moment for reflection. When you touch that offering plate or drop something in, you can give thanks or say a praise to God… you transition from being a spectator and consumer to a contributor and a worshiper.
- The widow wasn’t going to let someone else worship as her substitute. She engaged and gave to be part of the community and the cause of God’s glory.
- Giving in worship is not solely about finances but also about
- Not just your preferences or we miss the purpose and perhaps miss a biblical principle.
- Sharing gifts in a manner that isn’t about glorifying self but God.
- Voice at an athletic competition versus worship. At very least reflect on the words.
- Lifting hands with weights… at church you don’t need the weights, so it’s easier 😊
- Sharing life.
- People (cf. 2Cor 8:5; 1Thess 2)
- Matthew 23:23 Pharisees tithed but neglected more important issues of people’s lives – justice, mercy, faith.
- When we give of ourselves we are most like God, who gave His only Son.
- Giving is living.
- Whereas the rich gave of their abundance, the widow contributed of her poverty; everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mk 12:44). βίος = life
- Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35).
- Mission trips going to serve and share joy, but we are the ones coming back with lessons learned, giant smiles, and more fulfilled hearts and faith.
In all, money is morally neutral. Either you can worship your wealth or worship with your wealth. But wealth is most enjoyed when used for eternal significance than earthly satisfaction.
Jesus is watching our walk and weighing our giving… and Jesus is framing our view of grace.
Which of these givers are most like Jesus: the rich giving out of their abundance or the widow giving all her βίος = life?
You see, Jesus doesn’t tithe His life but surrenders it all fully to God. He gave the fullness of His βίος = life. And we are like the religious temple of the day – outwardly professional but inwardly empty and dying. Yet, as the widow extended the fullness of grace, so does God to us. God’s giving is unlike ours in that He is perfectly and abundantly generous with mercy and grace.
Take My Life… all for Thee.
- Receive Jesus into your life more than trying to give your life to Jesus.
- Reflect grace through giving unto God and others.
 R.T. France, NIGTC Mark 12:38.
 Adapted from John Piper, Brothers We Are Not Professionals, pp.1-3.
 R.T. France, NIGTC, Mark 12:42.