January 25-27, 2020
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Mark 12:41-44
“JESUS IS WATCHING!”
Mark 12:41-44 “ Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
“Jesus is watching!” That’s what a burglar heard as he entered a house one night through an unlocked patio door. “Jesus is watching!” His plan had been to grab whatever valuables he could and get out but the small high pitched voice made him pause. “Jesus is watching!” He looked around and saw no one. Maybe he had imagined it. So he continued searching. About 5 minutes later he heard the voice again "Jesus is watching." He turned his flashlight in the direction of the voice and he saw a parrot. Relieved he said to the parrot "What is your name?" The parrot replied "Moses." The robber then said "What kind of silly people would name their parrot Moses?" The parrot looked up and said "The same people who named their pitbull Jesus!" Now some of you may have heard that joke before. I got it first in one of the email forwards from a member when I was in Texas. It brought a smile to my face to see it again in Forward in Christ, the magazine of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Then Synod President Karl Gurgel had used it in an article. Jesus is watching. What comforting news it is that wherever we go Jesus is with us. What uncomfortable news that is to realize that all the things we try to hide from other people Jesus sees. Jesus is watching!
And Jesus was watching. As you heard Mark tell us in the Gospel lesson, Jesus was watching something else. Jesus was watching people bring their offerings. What surprises us here is how blatant he was about it. He didn’t peek to see if the person next to him in the pew put something in or try to see what numbers were written on their envelopes. Jesus blatantly sat down and watched people what people put in as their offerings. What might surprise you even more is when Jesus did this. It was Tuesday of Holy Week. He has precious little time with His disciples before He will die and rise and then ascend to heaven for good. Surely he had better things to be doing! Watch for a place to hold the Passover, Jesus, so you can bless us with the Lord’s Supper. Watch your back, Jesus! They are plotting your death. Watch what people give? It’s un-American, unLutheran at least. But Jesus was watching. He sets His priorities, not us. This was important to Him.
What did He see? “Many rich people threw in large amounts.” That isn’t out of the norm. We expect that those who have more should give more. That’s actually Biblical. In Luke 12:48 Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” That makes sense. What Jesus saw next did not. “But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.” I don’t know if you can see this, but this is what she gave. Two of these. Can you imagine the thoughts of the disciples who were watching with Jesus when He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.” What, Jesus are you crazy? She just put in the bare minimum she could get by with for the Temple tax. The only way she could have done worse is by giving one or nothing. How could she have put in more than all the others? Jesus explained. “They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Ah, so what was Jesus really watching? He was watching people’s hearts. What he saw was a bunch of people giving to God what they would not miss. They were giving large amounts but they had plenty more to live on. The widow was different. She didn’t offer to God her best. She gave her all. She wasn’t giving to God the frosting on the cake because she didn’t have any cake. She gave her bread money, her milk money. All she had to live on.
If you were one of the disciples there what would you have told her? I know what my heart would prompt me to say and do. “Ma’am, keep that. You need it. I have plenty. Let me pay for you. God knows your heart. He knows what you want to do. Keep what you have for yourself. You need it more than the Temple and the priests.” You’d say that too, right? But you know, if we had done that we would have robbed her of the very thing Jesus was commending her for, complete and utter trust in God. She made no excuses for herself. She would bring her portion even when that meant giving her all. She trusted God and His ways fully. Jesus knew that because Jesus was watching her heart.
Wow! That is humbling. I have to honestly admit I don’t think I could do what she did. What am I saying? I haven’t even though I could and have no plans to. I have no plans to have one massive rummage sale and empty all my bank accounts to give it to God to use in this church or any other. I’m guessing I’m not alone in that. Hats off to the widow woman. What do you think happened to her? You kind of want a Paul Harvey “And that’s the rest of the story.” Did she go to her spot near the city wall to wait for the hunger to pass and weakness to lead to the sleep that would take her to heaven? Did the Lord turn her life around and send a Boaz to rescue her from poverty? Was every day a day where with delight and amazement she discovered how the Father gave her daily bread in a brand new way? We aren’t told. I have my own ideas. But at some point earthly life ended and this poor widow woman became as rich as anyone can be. Why? Because of Jesus. You heard what God had the Apostle Paul tell us in 2 Corinthians 8:9 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Jesus gave up all, the glory and riches of heaven. He became poor, one of us, so that by living His life for us and giving His life for us we will one day be the richest people in the universe, co rulers with Christ, whatever that means. This is going to happen not because we are so good at living the Christian life, not because of anything we do or can do. It has nothing to do with our offerings to God. It’s a gift through faith in Jesus Christ.
Now, friends, Jesus is watching. He’s watching our hearts. Has what He has done for us changed them in any way? Does His sacrifice mean something to us so that we want to live for Him and not for ourselves? Jesus is watching, every area of our life and yes that means He is watching our giving. Today we conclude this year’s stewardship emphasis and yes, it’s been all about money, only not, if you’ve been listening. Let’s review what we learned. We learned that giving what is precious to you is a meaningful way to show LOVE. God so loved He gave Jesus. His one and only Son. We love God so we give what is precious in our society, money. We learned that firstfruit giving, giving to God right away when we get paid or receive income instead of waiting to see what bills come and giving to God our leftovers each month shows TRUST. We learned that proportionate giving, a percentage of our income cheerfully and joyfully given shows HONOR.
The question before all of us here is so now what? This whole series was designed to have you think about why and how you give offerings to God instead of doing it mindlessly, casually, because you have to or because the church is behind in the budget. It was designed to help you grow in your Christian living so that you can cheerfully give in a way that shows love, trust and honor for God loves a cheerful giver. If your way of giving already reflects that, great, keep it up, put your money where your heart is. If for whatever reason this has not been something you do here is an invitation, try it! “Hey Mikey, he likes it!” Many of you remember that memorable commercial for Life cereal. You, too young people, pull out your phones after service and google it. Three brothers are around the kitchen table. Two older ones are trying to decide whether they want to try this new cereal called Life. They decide to make Mikey try it first because he hates everything. Lo and behold Mikey tries it and starts devouring the cereal. “Hey Mikey, he likes it!” Just had to try it first.
In your service folders you see an example of what will be coming to you in letter form soon. It’s a 10 for 10 invitation. It invites you to deliberately and purposefully consider why you give and what you give. 10% is a suggestion. Doesn’t have to be that. You could be like the widow and give 100%. You could be like Zacchaeus and try 50%. You could follow Bible greats like Abraham and Jacob who long before there was an Old Testament law called tithing, on their own, felt that amount would show God honor and thanks. You can pick 5% or something else. Do you know what the average American gives away for all charities combined? Around 2.5% of their income. I guess I’ve never thought that what an average American would do is good enough for my God. I believe that you too want to do better than average for our Lord. For Chris and myself we like giving 10%. It gives us joy. We feel it honors God. The math is easy too. We started that when we were first married and had a double income with no kids. And God always took care of us and we had what we needed and more. We continued when we had a single income with kids at home. God still took care of us, gave us what we needed and more. Double income with kids at home. Same story. Double income with kids pretty much on their own. All we need and more. That’s stayed the same even though the amount of our income changed vastly. Jesus has been watching--over us. He watches over you too. Chris and I have decided we will make an increase for 10 weeks and make the math harder. Each of you will need to decide for yourselves. No matter what you decide, heaven is your home. Jesus made sure of that. Whatever you decide make sure it comes from heart that loves God, trusts God, honors God. That’s what Jesus is watching for. Amen.