Jesus Watching Us Give
October 8th, 1978 @ 10:50 AM
JESUS WATCHING US GIVE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-8-78 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Jesus Watching Us Give. In the last part of the twelfth chapter of Mark, is one of the most beautiful stories that you will find in literature. Beginning at verse 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” [Mark 12:41]. How grateful we are for that. Were it not for affluent people, the church would stagger. And the support of those who are able is no less a strength to the church than any other area in which we pray for it and lift it up.
And many that were rich cast in much.
Now there came a certain poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing.
And He called unto Him His disciples, and saith unto them, Truly I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they that have cast into the treasury:
For all they did cast in of their perisseuontos—a participle—all they cast in of their perisseuontos, of their continuing abounding.
That’s an exact translation. All they did cast in of their continuing abounding, their great and vast increase; “but she of her husterēsis.” I can translate that exactly: destitution. “But she of her extreme poverty and want and destitution did cast in all that she had, even all of her livelihood, all of her living” [Mark 12:43-44].
If the Lord was moved by that, no less are we. It is a precious and beautiful incident in the life of Jesus. And it is doubly so when I speak of the context of His life in which it came to pass. This is Tuesday of Passion week. Friday, He will be nailed to the cross. And on this day of Tuesday, our Lord visited the temple for the last time. He never came back again. And on that Tuesday was that bitter, and vitriolic, and violent confrontation between the Lord and the scribes, and the Pharisees, and the Sadducees, and the elders of the temple. And that confrontation closed with the most bitter and scathing, judgmental denunciation I’ve ever read in any literature in the world. You will find it in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew [Matthew 23:1-39], and in these verses immediately preceding the passage I’ve read in Mark [Mark 12:24-27]. It is like a judgment day before “the day,” as the Lord condemns, in awesome terms, the leaders of Israel.
Do you remember in the sixth chapter of the Revelation? As they stand before the throne of God, they cry for the rocks and the mountains to fall on them, and to hide them “from the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” [Revelation 6:16]. What an amazing contradiction in terms is that: “the wrath of the Lamb.” “For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” [Revelation 16:17].
You have a preview of that judgment in this passage preceding this beautiful woman giving [out of] her poverty and her need to the Lord. He has denounced in awesome terms the scribes, and the Pharisees, and the elders of Israel. And apparently, after that denunciation, He withdraws to Himself, in the Women’s Court of the temple.
In the temple area, you have the Gentile’s Court, Israel’s Court, the Women’s Court, the Priest’s Court, and then the sanctuary itself. And the Lord seemingly retired into the Women’s Court and sat down. It happened to be that in the court of the women, there were three large chests, and apertures that went down like big trumpets, and when the people gave to the temple, why, they cast in their gifts in those big trumpets.
And the Lord, seated there, watched the people as they gave. And the affluent, the rich, gave a great amount. And in the line of those who passed by was this widow, this poor widow. And she cast into one of those trumpets everything that she possessed, her entire livelihood. And the Lord noticed it. How like Him to notice it. And He appreciated the loving, willing gift of that poor woman [Mark 12:41-44].
The Lord’s always like that. In the story of Bethany, Mary took an alabaster box, and broke it, and anointed His feet, and dried them with the hair of her head. And Judas said: “Look at that waste! Think of how that money could have been used otherwise. Why, that alabaster box of ointment cost a whole year’s salary. Look at that waste!” [John 12:1-6].
The Lord said: “No. She has anointed My body for the burial” [John 12:7]. The Lord saw the gift, loved and appreciated it; and He is just Himself all the time. And He is that way here: seeing this poor woman, so lovingly and willingly, bestow in the trumpet of the temple the entire livelihood, the work of her hands, He noticed it [Mark 12:41-42]. And He said to His disciples, “Come and look at this flower in the desert. She has given more than they all: For they out of their superfluity, out of their abundance, out of their continuing abounding, have given; but this woman out of her husteresis, out of her destitution has given everything that she has” [Mark 12:43-44].
I want you to look at how small is the gift of this woman: it says that she cast into the treasury two lepta, singular, lepton. A lepton, translated here is “mite,” a lepton, it took two of them to make a farthing, it is translated. Kodrantes; two lepta made a kodrantes, that is a “quadrans.” A quadrans was a small fourth part of a Roman “as.” I have tried to figure out in my own way how much those two lepta were that this poor woman gave. And the best I can figure it out, what she gave into the treasury was about three-fourths of a cent. It was exceedingly small. But it represented her entire possessions. What she had was only the menial fruit of her hands. And in self-denial, taking all of her livelihood, everything she possessed, she gave it into the treasury of the temple. And the Lord saw it, and commended her for it; and spoke these beautiful words of gratitude. For you see, it was in her heart to do it, not grudgingly or of necessity [2 Corinthians 9:7], or by coercion or by commandment. It came out of the full response of her heart. And that is the difference between love and law; between the Old Testament and the New Testament. That’s the difference between commandment and a beautiful, and precious, and loving response that arises out of the fountains of the soul.
When I first was taught Hebrew, and reading for the first time those stories in Genesis, I came across an astonishing thing. In the Bible you have it translated that Abel brought “a sacrifice,” Abel brought an “offering” unto the Lord [Genesis 4:4]. When you read that in Hebrew, this is what it says: “And Abel brought a minchah unto the Lord,” translated many times in the Old Testament Scriptures, “a sacrifice” or “an offering.” But a minchah is a gift; minchah is the Hebrew word for “gift.” Abel brought a gift to the Lord, not by commandment, not by coercion, not by necessity, but out of the fullness of his heart he brought a gift to God [Genesis 4:4]. As you read the story, Abraham, hundreds and hundreds of years before the Law, hundreds of years before the Law, Abraham came before Melchizedek, the priest of El Elyon, God Most High [Genesis 14:18-20], and he gave to God Most High a tenth of everything that he possessed. No commandment, no law, no coercion—just out of the fullness of his heart, he gave a tenth of everything that he possessed to God Most High [Genesis 14:20].
As I follow the story, I find the same thing in the life of Jacob: four hundred thirty years before the law, Jacob said: “Dear God, if You will go with me, and stand by me, and help me, out of everything that You give me, I will faithfully give a tenth part unto Thee” [Genesis 28:20-22]; not by commandment, but out of the fullness of his heart.
Like Barnabas, whom they call the “Son of Consolation”; sold his farm and gave all of it to the Lord, all of it to the church [Acts 4:36-37]. Not by commandment: “Thou shalt tithe” [Leviticus 27:30, 32]. Not by coercion: “You steal if you do not give that much to God” [Malachi 3:8-9]. Not out of necessity, but out of the fullness of heart, out of love and grace. And the difference is the difference between night and day. And the Lord noticed it, and commended it [Mark 12:41-44].
I want to illustrate for you if I can, the difference between doing out of commandment, out of necessity, out of law; and doing, responding out of the love of your heart. Last night, in this very auditorium, and my standing in this exact place, we had a beautiful wedding. Little Vicki Hanson, the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Bill Hanson, was married to a tall, good-looking boy last night. And as the ceremony progressed, I took a ring from his best man and gave it to him. And [he] placed it on her finger just so and, “Repeat after me,” and then, from her maid of honor, I took a ring and gave it to her and said, “Place it on his finger just so, and repeat after me”:
I, Vicki Hanson, take thee, Steve Parkay to [be] my lawful and wedded husband, to have and to hold, to love and to cherish until death do us part. And with this ring I thee wed, and with all of the love of my heart I thee endow, in the name of the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
So when I asked sweet little Vicki, “You repeat after me,” she couldn’t say the words. She looked up in the face of that tall, good-looking boy, and just great big tears rolled off of her face. And that boy looked down into her face with infinite love and adoration.
All right! Suppose I write out commandments for them. Now they’re going to be married and the pastor mimeographs two tables of commandments for the young couple.
The Law and Commandments for The Wife and Husband In Marriage:
One: Thou shalt not feed her every Saturday night.
Two: Thou shalt not knock out her teeth.
Three: Thou shalt not blacken her eyes.
Four: Thou shalt not treat her like a dog.
Five: Thou shalt not work her like a slave.
Six: Thou shalt not use her merely for self-gratification.
Seven: Thou shalt not rob her, steal from her, and cheat her.
Now the second table of commandments:
Number one: If you have a child, thou shalt not abuse the child.
Number two: Thou shalt not molest the child.
Number three: Thou shalt not commit incest with the child.
Number four: Thou shalt not beat the child with a crowbar or a hoe handle.
Number five: Thou shalt not break his bones.
Number six: Thou shalt not starve the child to death.
What if, in my marriage ceremony, I write out ten commandments and give it to them and say: “Now, this do!” Oh! Inconceivable! Superfluous!
When he looks into her face and says “…to love and to cherish…” you don’t need the law! You don’t need the commandments! And isn’t that what the New Testament says: love is the fulfilling of the law? [Galatians 5:14]. And He names the commandments and says: “If there be any other, it is fulfilled in this: thou shalt love” [Romans 13:9-10].
And the whole grace, and doctrine, and teaching in the New Testament is this: we don’t do for Jesus by commandment, and by coercion, and by law, and by necessity, but what we do for the Lord comes out of the fullness of our souls [2 Corinthians 9:7].
This poor widow took her entire livelihood—out of her destitution—and gives it to Jesus. And the Lord commends her [Mark 12:42-44]. Now we’re going to look at that real carefully.
First of all, she speaks to us today. “What? Give that to the temple? Give that to these men that the Lord has just condemned and judged? What!” The Lord Himself is nursing anger against that temple. And within about thirty-five years of this incident, within the generation that was then living, the Lord sent Titus and the Roman legions to destroy it from the face of the earth, and it’s never been rebuilt. “What? Give to the temple? What? Give to those men that the Lord had just denounced in that scathing judgment of Matthew 23? [Matthew 23:1-29]. What? Give to them?”
No, she gave her gift to God! And however it is that men may defraud and debase—God help us, but by our response and our giving is to God. And I want to say to our stewardship men and my fellow deacons and our dear church; that brings me to my knees.
Lord, Lord, these are gifts that have been made to God. These tithes and our offerings have been dedicated to Thee. Lord, Lord, in infinite wisdom, in heavenly concern and care, help us, Lord, to use it wisely and beautifully for Thy glory; because we’re not giving to an institution and we’re not giving to men, we are giving to God. And may the Lord sanctify it and bless it in the earth.
Another thing: we all have a part. I thank God for the rich who cast in much [Mark 12:41].. I say again, their support strengthens and blesses the church infinitely. But also may I point out, that if a church and the work of God is supported just by the rich, and if God reserved it just for them, how infinitely more poor are these who are shut out from sharing in the kingdom work of our blessed Jesus. He didn’t do it that way. All of us can have a part: the poorest of the poor, as this destitute widow with her two lepta, and the affluent who abound in riches. All alike can have a part in the kingdom.
May I pause here to say what I think is the great strength of this church? It has never been supported alone, only by just a few who were able, but by the thousands and by the thousands. All of us have a part in building up the name of Christ in this dear place and in the earth. And God has blessed it. All of us have a part, all of us!
You know, it is by nature that we demur in giving. It is by nature that we want to keep things for ourselves; not only the rich, but the poor, and not only the poor, but the rich. We’re all alike in that; by nature we want to keep whatever we have.
I read this week of a woman who came into a very large inheritance. And this is what she said; when the announcement was made to her of the great inheritance that she had received, she replied, “Bring me my checkbook immediately and let me make this gift before my heart grows hard!”
It is easy to follow the bent of our natures and to keep and to grasp what we have, whether we’re poor or whether we’re rich. And the Lord commended this poor woman. Taking her entire living, all of it, and out of her want, and destitute, and poverty; giving it all to the Lord [Mark 12:42-44].
Now the rest of this sermon is not in the text, but it is in the Bible. And it is in the spirit of the Scriptures. What do you think happened to her? If I were to ask you, “I want you to stand up. You over there, you up there and you over yonder; I want you to stand up and I want you to tell me, what do you think happened to that woman?”
She took the entire living of her hands, the entire increase of her labor, and in her self-denial that’s all she had, and she gave all of it to the Lord. What do you think happened to her? Do you suppose the Lord took care of her in heavenly benedictory care? Do you think He did? I’ll tell you why I think that He did. Why He blessed her.
Do you remember that beautiful story in the seventeenth chapter of 1 Kings when Elijah the prophet of God is sent to live the three and half years of that terrible drought in Israel in a widow’s home in Zarephath? [1 Kings 17:8-9]. Do you remember when he came, she said: “I have nothing but a little meal that is left in the barrel and a few drops of oil in the cruse: and I am going now to gather two sticks, and make a little cake that my boy and I might eat it, and then die” [1 Kings 17:12].
And he says: “Bring the cake to me. Give it to me” [1 Kings 17:13].
And in obedience and in faith, she gave what she had to the prophet of God. And then the Book says—remember what it says?— the Book says, God said it, the Bible says, “The barrel of meal did not fail, and the cruse of oil did not waste, the cruse of oil did not waste, until God sent rain upon the earth” [1 Kings 17:14-16]. He took care. He does! He blesses us! He never fails to bless us, when out of our hearts there is a wonderful response to His grace and goodness.
He always blesses, and He blesses two ways: He blesses in this life, and He blesses us in the life to come. He blesses us in this life. We are blessed who thus respond out of love and gratitude to the goodnesses of God to us.
I want to show you that. There was a man who, facing the day that Bill Grubbs has here in our church, a victory Sunday, a stewardship reply—there was a man who, sitting down with his wife in their home, he was proposing a large and generous gift to the Lord, a tithe and much more. Then when his wife saw it—what he was proposing to do—she thought, as you can’t help but think: “Look what this could buy, mink coats, expensive cars,” just turned over in her mind. And, as she began to think of those things that that gift would buy, she said, she exclaimed, she said, “Oh husband, it seems to me that we have lost so much by our religion!”
And he replied beautifully, he replied, this is what he said, he said, “Dear wife, that’s correct. We have lost a great deal by our religion. Before I was converted,” he said, “we lived in a hovel with hardly a stick of furniture in the house. And we have lost all of that—for now look at our beautiful home.”
He said, “Sweet wife, before I was saved, I was dressed in rags, and you had hardly enough to cover your nakedness. And we’ve lost all that. For now we are beautifully dressed.”
And he said, “Sweet wife, before I was saved, I was a slave to drink and to evil; and I was more like a beast than a man. And we’ve lost all that. Since I have been saved, we live in peace, and in love, and in joy.”
And he said, “Sweet wife, before I was saved, before I was saved, I was in debt, and I was ashamed to face a man. Now that I’m converted and I’m a Christian, we’ve lost all of that. I am blessed of God and we have savings in the bank.”
And when he started to continue, she burst in tears, “Husband, no, no, no! God forgive me, and you forgive me. I am so ungrateful. God forgive me!”
My dear people, God blesses us when we respond to His gracious love in our hearts and lives; God blesses us. There are a thousand things we lose, that’s right! And there are a thousand things we gain. And the things we lose are dark, and the things that we gain are the light of the very love of the presence of the Lord.
We are blessed in this life. All right—again, and we’re blessed in the life to come. I want to ask you: the Lord died Friday—this is Tuesday; Wednesday, Thursday—two more days. After two days, the Lord was in heaven. He went back to heaven [Acts 1:9-11]. Almost certainly I would say that He died before she [the poor widow] did. I would almost certainly say that.
Now I want to ask you. When the time came for the angels to bear her soul to Abraham’s bosom and she arrived in the beautiful city; I want to ask you, do you think the Lord recognized her? Do you think He did? Do you think He did? When she came, finally at the end of her life, into glory, do you think the Lord recognized her? That poor widow who gave all she had to God? [Mark 12:42-44]. You know what I think? I think that, when she came, borne by the angels into Abraham’s bosom; I think the Lord not only recognized her, but He said: “All ye hosts, come. This is that poor widow.” And I think He called all the redeemed of glory and said: “Come, this is that poor widow.”
And do you know what I think beside? When I get to heaven and I walk down those golden streets and I see the Lord, I think in the mingling with God’s redeemed in glory, I’m going to meet her some beautiful day.
Sweet people, that’s what it is going to be like when we get to heaven. All that we’ve done for Jesus, all that we’ve given for the Lord, we’re going to meet it in the children that we taught by it, and the young people we have sought by it, and the families we have brought by it. All that we have will be just what we’ve given away
Carve your name high
For the shifting sands,
Where the steadfast rocks defy decay.
All that we’ll hold in our cold, dead hands
Is what we have given away.
[“Giving,” presented by E. M. Poteat, Fuhrman University, S.C.]
I am saved by the word of God [Romans 10:17]. The man who responds is blessed in this life, and he is blessed in the life to come—just as the Lord remembered this poor widow.
Now my appeal following her example; when I stand in the omnipotent infinitude of God, He holds the whole creation just in the palm of His hand, and it is so vast that mind cannot enter into it. The immensity, the infinitude of God’s omnipotence, and on one corner of that vast infinitude of the Lord is our universe, and there is a little speck in our universe that we call the Earth. And on that speck I stand. In God’s sight I am so small, and I have two mites: one is my soul, my heart. The other is my body, my physical frame. Those two little mites I have in God’s great infinitude. And I think the Lord would notice it, and would be pleased by it, if I brought to Him and gave to Him my two little mites: my hands, my physical frame, the strength of my days; and my soul, and the love of my heart. My two little mites, given to the great and mighty God: and no less will God bless and see. That’s the Lord, and that is our invitation to your heart to answer with your life.
“Lord, this day, this day I dedicate to Thee all that I am and all that I have, my two little mites.” In the balcony round, a couple you, a family you, down one of these stairways here to the front; on this lower floor in the throng and press of people here; out of that pew into that aisle, down to the front, “Here I am. I am coming, pastor, today. I have decided for God, and I am on the way [Romans 10:8-13]. This is my wife and these are my children. We are all coming today.” Or, “This is my friend, the two of us are coming.” Or, “This is my wife, we are coming,” the couple of you. Or just one somebody you, make the decision now in your heart and come on the first note of the first stanza. May the angels attend you in the way. May the Spirit of God make you happy, as you answer with your life; do it now, while we stand and while we sing.