Jesus Watching Us Give
October 8th, 1978 @ 8:15 AM
JESUS WATCHING US GIVE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-8-78 8:15 a.m.
In the last verses of the twelfth chapter of Mark is without doubt one of the most beautiful and moving stories that you could ever read in literature, beginning at verse 41. The Gospel of Mark, chapter 12, 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.
And there was 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, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have given into the treasury:
For all they did cast in of their perisseuontes, perisseuontes
It is a participle, "out of their continuing abounding," that’s a literal word, "out of their continuing abounding."
For all they did cast in of their abounding, of their continuing abundance; but she of her usterēseōs, of her absolute destitution; but she of her destitution did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
Could you find a more beautiful and poignant illustration of the stewardship theme for this year: "Everybody Tithe and More"? Could you find an illustration more moving than this incident in the life of our Lord?
Let me speak of its context first: this happened on Tuesday of Passion Week; by that Friday our Lord is nailed to a cross. This is His last visit to the temple; He never came back again. And on that Tuesday was that bitter, and vitriolic, and violent confrontation between Jesus and the scribes, and the Pharisees, and the Sadducees, and the temple elders. And it ended, as you remember, in one of the most devastating, castigating of all of the addresses that you could read in human speech. It is the twenty-third chapter of Matthew [Matthew 23:13-36], and a part of it quoted here in the twelfth chapter of Mark, just preceding this incident [Mark 12:38-40]. And seemingly after that terrible and scathing denunciation, which is like a judgment day before the Day – you know it’s a strange thing, that phrase that is so filled with opposites. "Hide us," they cry in the sixth chapter of the Revelation, "the mountains and the rocks fall on us; hide us from Him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb" [Revelation 6:16]. What an unusual turn of words, "the wrath of the Lamb,For the great day of His wrath has come; and who shall be able to stand?" [Revelation 6:17]. It is just that the twenty-third chapter of Matthew, and these last verses preceding this incident in the life of our Lord are scathing and denunciatory beyond any way to imagine it: "the wrath of the Lamb" [Revelation 6:16]. And after that castigation, and condemnation, and judgment [Mark 12:38-40], apparently the Lord withdrew and is seated over there in the Court of the Women [Mark 12:41].
In the temple area, first the Court of the Gentiles, then the Court of Israel, then the Court of the Women, then the Court of the Priests, then the sanctuary itself. And after that awesome judgment, the Lord seemingly withdrew and sat over there alone in the Court of the Women, quiet [Mark 12:41]. In that court there were three chests, and there were trumpet like apertures that led down into the chests. And as the people passed by entering the temple they gave to the Lord, putting their gifts in those chests. And the Lord, seated there in the Court of the Women, began to watch the people as they gave. And certain ones who were affluent gave very much [Mark 12:41]. Then this poor widow, a widow, a poor widow, came by in the throng, and cast into one of those trumpets two lepta, two of them, plural, leptos [Mark 12:42]. Pretty hard to say how little that is, even the story says "two lepta which make a leptos." A leptos is a quadrans, one-fourth part of an infinitesimally small Roman coin that they called an as. I’ve tried to figure out how small that is. And the best I can figure out, she put into the treasury about three-fifths of a cent; two lepta which make a quadrans, less than a nickel, just a few parts of a penny. It is extremely small. And the Lord noticed it. And He called His disciples to Him, for you see, He was seated there by Himself. He called His disciples to Him and said, "Look at this flower in the desert, this poor widow hath given more than they all, having cast into the treasury everything that she had; her whole living" [Mark 12:43-44].
Well, isn’t that typical of our Lord to notice it? And isn’t that typical of our Lord to appreciate it, to be grateful for it? It’s the same Lord that when seated in the house in Bethany, and Mary broke the alabaster box, anointed His feet, and dried them with the hair of her head. Judas said, "Look at that. Three hundred pence, a full year’s salary, wasted." The Lord said, "Not wasted. She is anointing My body for the burial. And wherever this gospel is preached, this will be told of her" [Mark 14:3-9; John 12:3-7]. That’s the Lord; the extravagance of a poured out love and affection moves His heart. And it did our Lord here.
She gave out of her need and of her necessity, out of her – the Greek, "destitution," that is she gave everything that she had [Mark 12:44; Luke 21:4]. All that she possessed was the labor of her hands. Her whole property consisted of the reward of her menial work. And her entire saving of the work of her hand she gave into the treasury of the Lord. It was in her heart to do it. And it was the motive, the love that lay back of it, that moved our Lord to this commendation: "She has given more than they all" [Mark 12:43; Luke 21:3]. She had nothing left; just depending upon God to send His ravens to feed her and take care of her.
Now may I pause for just that moment and speak of that? The abounding love that lies back of our devoted service to the Lord; not by commandment, not by law, not by coercion, but moved in our hearts to respond, and what a difference! What a vast difference; doing things out of necessity, because we’re commanded to do them. By law, we must do them; contrariwise, doing things for God out of the abounding fullness of our hearts. It is a strange thing when I studied Hebrew and began to read those stories in the Book of Genesis in Hebrew; I found that Abel brought to God a minchah [Genesis 4:4], translated many times in the Old Testament "a sacrifice," translated many times in the Old Testament "an offering." What does minchah really mean? A minchah is the Hebrew word for "a gift." Abel brought to God a minchah, a gift. By way of commandment? I have never read in the Bible any commandment to Abel to bring a sacrifice to the Lord. It came out of the fullness of his heart. It was a response in his soul, a minchah, an offering, a gift to the Lord, translated "a sacrifice" [Genesis 4:2, 4; Hebrews 11:4]. Four hundred years before the law I read in the Bible that Abraham gave to Melchizedek – priest of El Elyon, the God Most High – a tenth of everything that he possessed. By commandment? there was no commandment! Four hundred years before the law, it came out of his heart [Genesis 14:17-20]. I read the same in the life of Jacob. Three hundred fifty years before the law, "Lord, help me, and bless me. And if You will, out of everything You give me, I will set aside a tenth for Thee" [Genesis 28:20-22]. Not by way of commandment but out of the love of his heart. Same way in the life of Barnabas, the "son of consolation" they called him. Had a farm, sold it; gave everything of it to the Lord [Acts 4:36-37]. What a vast difference between law and love, between the commandment coercive and the fullness of heart that responds.
Last night in this very place, we had a wedding. A sweet, precious girl in our church was married to one of the finest looking boys you ever saw; tall and handsome. The girl was Vicki, the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Bill Hanson. And as I said to her, "You will repeat after me: I, Vicki Hanson, take thee, Steve Parkay, to my lawful and wedded husband, to love and to cherish, to have and to hold, till death do us part. And with this ring, I thee wed. And with all the love of my heart I thee endow in the name of the triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen." And the sweet girl, looking up into the face of her young husband, couldn’t even repeat the words. She just stood there and tried to say them, and great, heavy, big tears roll off of her face as she looked up into the face of her young husband. All right, as he looks down into her face, what would you think of me if I mimeograph these commandments, and I give them to the couple? These are the laws and the commandments of marriage, young man:
Number one: thou shalt not beat her every Saturday night.
Number two: thou shalt not knock out her teeth.
Number three: thou shalt not blacken her eyes.
Number four: thou shalt not treat her like a dog.
Number five: thou shalt not work her like a slave.
Number six: thou shalt not use her for self gratification.
Number seven: thou shalt not rob her, and steal from her, and cheat her.
Then the second table of commandments, the law and commandments for a child that might be born in your home:
One: thou shalt not abuse the child.
Two: thou shalt not molest the child.
Three: thou shalt not commit incense with the child.
Four: thou shalt not beat the child with a crowbar or with a hoe handle.
Number five: thou shalt not break his bones.
Number six: thou shalt not starve the child.
It would be absolutely, unthinkably superfluous and obsolete to do that! Why? For the simple reason when that boy looks down into the face of that girl; beat her? Hate her? Rob from her? Love and cherish, adore, serve; that is the difference between law and love.
And isn’t that the gospel of the New Testament? "Love worketh no ill; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law" [Romans 13:10]. Don’t need a commandment. "Don’t need the law." Pastor, to do that would be of all things inappropriate and unapropos, for this is a life of the New Testament. This is the life of grace and I don’t need any commandment; love fulfills it all. That’s it: out of the fullness of the heart, the response.
Well, you look at that carefully: why give to the temple? Why give to these men that the Lord has just so vitriolically and violently condemned? [Mark 12:38-40]. If you have opportunity, you reread the twenty-third chapter of Matthew; there’s nothing like that in human speech, anywhere. I say it is the judgment day before the judgment. You read it [Matthew 23:1-39].
And this poor widow is giving to those men; she is supporting that temple [Mark 12:41-44]. That is the temple against which God is nursing His wrath against the day of judgment that fell one generation later. Some of those still living saw it: the destruction of the temple forty years later – less than forty years – by Titus and the Roman legions. Why give to it? I’ll answer it: she’s not giving to the temple, and she’s not giving to those men; she is giving to God! And however men may pollute and degrade, her gift was for God. That’s, oh! That bows me to my knees. Dear God! How responsible we ought to be in the church when people give to the Lord and we take their loving gifts. And what do we do with it? God help us to be responsible as unto the Lord for all that our people bring into the treasury of our God; giving it to God. And the Lord deliver us from wasteful, abusive use of that response.
Again, do you notice that we all are invited to the Lord to have a part? The rich gave much; they gave generously [Mark 12:41]. And this poor, poor widow gave also [Mark 12:42]. All of us have a part; all of us; no one of us excluded. If I have been blessed of God with an abounding riches, I can have a part. And if I live out of destitution, I also can have a part. And I’ll tell you this: after looking at this dear church for thirty-five years now, that’s the strength of its power before God; we all are welcome, and we all have a part. It isn’t just a few who are supporting it and holding it up and sustaining it. By the thousands we support it and that makes it great; and it will always be great, as long as by the thousands our people support it. All of us have a part, all of us.
Now, the end: what about the reward of this poor widow? Now, here I pick up the story and I just follow it through in the spirit of the New Testament. For it is not in the text; the whole story we have read and it closes there. But in the spirit of the New Testament, I pick it up and carry it on. Was she rewarded in this life? I wonder. She gave everything that she had – a tithe and more – she gave everything. Reckon the Lord forgot her? Do you reckon the Lord let her down? Or do you suppose the Lord watched over her with guardian care? What do you think? All I can go by is the revelation of the Lord in the Bible, and I have an instance, and a beautiful one.
In the seventeenth chapter of 1 Kings, Elijah says to the starving widow of Zarephath, "Bring a cake, a meal, to me; and then bake for yourself and your dying boy." And the poor widow replies, "I have just this small amount of meal in the barrel, and I have just this small remainder of oil in the cruse. And I am preparing to make a little cake, and my son and I eat it, and die." And Elijah says, "You prepare the cake for the servant of the Lord, and trust God." She did. And the book says; do you remember what it said? "The barrel of meal did not waste, and the cruse of oil did not fail, until God sent rain upon the earth" [1 Kings 17:10-16]. I think I have, therefore, a right to say I believe that God took care of her. God blessed her and watched over in guardian love.
Now, may I say it’s the same Lord God who watches over us? He blesses us, and He takes care of us when we respond to Him. He just does. And He blesses us two ways: He blesses us here, and in the life that is to come. He blesses us here; He just does. You know, there was a man, who with his wife was preparing for this day that Bill Grubbs is leading us in, and as they sat down to prepare that response, to fill out that card, the wife was aghast at the amount her husband was preparing to give. And somehow, seeing it – the amount that he was preparing to pledge – she began to think of what that would buy, and burst out into an exclamation, "Husband, it seems to me that we have lost so much by our religion." And he sweetly and preciously replied, "Dear wife, you are right. You are correct; we have lost much in our religion. Before I was converted, we lived in a hovel with hardly a decent stick of furniture in it. And we have lost all of that. We now have this beautiful home. Dear wife," he said, "before I was converted I was dressed in rags, and you had hardly enough clothing to cover your nakedness; and we have lost that, for now we are beautifully dressed." He said, "Before I was saved, I was a slave to evil and to drink; I was more like a beast than a man. And we have lost that, for now we are respected, and our lives are filled with peace and love." And he said, "Sweet wife, before I was saved we were in debt and I was ashamed to look a man in the face. But now we have lost that, we walk with savings in the bank." And he was about to continue, and she burst in with tears, saying, "Husband, forgive me and may God forgive me, how ungrateful I am!"
My sweet people, there is no such thing as a man, or a woman, or a youngster responding to the love of Christ, and the Lord not remember it, and not see it, and not bless in return. But that is not all, we are blessed in the world to come. Now here again, I just have to go by the rest of the Bible for it is not in the story. You tell me, the Lord went to heaven first for He died that Friday – this is Tuesday, and He died that Friday – now you tell me, when the day came for her translation do you suppose the Lord recognized her in glory? What do you think? You know what I think? I think that when the day came and the angels bore her soul to Abraham’s bosom, I think the Lord said to all the angels, "This is that woman; this is she!" And I think He said to the redeemed, "This is that woman!" And you know, when we arrive into glory, I’d like to meet her, wouldn’t you? And I’d like to see her, wouldn’t you? And it will be a sweet and precious privilege to go up to the Lord Jesus and say, "Where is that poor widow? I’d like to meet her." You see, I don’t think God lets fall to the ground any remembrance that we make in His name. It’s our eternal reward. These are the children that we taught. These are the young people that we’ve sought. These are the families that we’ve brought. And we made it possible. And finally, that’s about all that will ever remain of whatever we have.
Carve your name high o’er the shifting sands,
Where the steadfast rocks defy decay;
All that we hold in our cold, dead hands
Is what we have given away
["Giving"; Presented by E.M. Poteat, President, Furman University, S.C.]
It is a reward in glory.
Now my appeal: when I stand in the presence of the great High God, He is the omnipotent infinitude. The vastness of God’s creation is beyond what our mind can conceive. And in one little, tiny part of that infinitude of God is this universe, and in this vast universe is this little earth, and on this big earth is you. And I am by your side, "And all I have – compared to the infinitude of God – all I have are two lepta, two little mites; namely, my body and my soul, my heart and my life. And dear God, I have it in my soul to give my two mites to Thee; my body, and my soul, my heart, and my life. Lord, take the gift and bless it, and bless me." And if the Lord has not deceived us, He receives the gift, the two mites, and He multiplies them. And He will in your life and with us.
That is our appeal. To bring our two mites to the Lord, "My life, and my soul, my heart, my body, I dedicate it to the Lord Jesus, and I’m coming this morning." For the first time, to receive Jesus as Savior, come; having been saved, come to be baptized; having been saved and baptized, come, to put your life with us in the church. A thousand times welcome and angels will attend you. God will bless you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.