True Giving

True Giving

“True Giving”

(Mark 12:41-44)

Series: Giving God’s Way (2 of 3)

Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

First Baptist Church Henderson, KY

(1-18-09) (AM)


Take God’s Word and open to the Gospel of Mark, chapter 12.


Last week we began a short, 3-part series on Christian giving.  It has been our practice to start every year this way with a few messages on tithing and giving.  This is the second of just three messages and we’re looking in the Gospels at what Jesus says about giving.


You know, one out of every six verses in the New Testament deals with money or possessions.  Jesus talks more about money than He does about faith, heaven, hell, or prayer.  In fact, 30% of the parables of Jesus deal with money or possessions.  Money was an important topic to our Lord Jesus and so, money is an important topic of study for us.


The passage this morning comes from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 4.  For many of us it is a familiar story, a heart-warming story about a widow who gives her offering to the temple.  She is giving money in worship to God.  This is a short story, just four verses, yet it is a story that teaches us some principles about true giving.  Look for them and listen for them as I read the text.


  • Stand in honor of the reading of the Word of God.


41 Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much.

 42 Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.

 43 So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury;

 44 “for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”


  • Pray.




Few teachers can resist the urge to pause the action of a movie in order to teach a point to their class.  Parents can relate to this, too.  I find myself doing this if our family is watching a movie and I know there is a subtle point being made in a scene.  I’ll grab the remote and hit pause.  Too much of this can drive people crazy!  But there’s something going on there in that scene—a teachable moment—something we want to be sure that others grasp.


In one sense, Jesus pauses the action of this story.  He sees something happening at the temple and seizes upon it as a teachable moment for His disciples.  They had no doubt grown accustomed to this.  He would call the disciples around Himself and explain what they had just witnessed and then would teach them some lessons from the experience.


And so what is a teachable moment for Jesus’ followers back then is a teachable moment for us right now.  We can learn so much from this short story, but what I want to share this morning in our brief time together is what the story teaches about true giving.  Last week we learned about giving the tithe.  Last week was about tithe giving.  This week is about true giving.  Next week, Lord willing, we’ll look at treasure-giving.


But for now, let’s revisit this day at the temple in Jerusalem.  Let’s sit there with Jesus and the disciples and watch this woman give her offering.  And let’s listen again to the words of Jesus as He teaches us and leads us to consider a few basic principles about Christian giving, about giving God’s way.  First:


I.  Consider the Manner in which you give


That is, the way in which you give, or how you give.  What is our disposition as we give our gift?  How do we go about it?  Consider the manner in which you give.  Verse one:


41 Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury.


The sense of the word “how” is the same in the original Greek.  It is an adverb describing the manner or the way in which people were giving.  So Jesus’ is watching not just “what” people were giving, but the “way” in which they were giving it.


The manner in which we do things for our Lord has always been important to Him.  He had just warned His disciples—in the verses preceding—to “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers (38-40).”  He had just spoken about the haughty and arrogant manner in which some people carry themselves.  And that statement is then followed by this event where Jesus watches how people are giving to the temple treasury.


41 Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much.


Now Jesus does not condemn the rich people who are giving here.  He doesn’t condemn them, but it is possible they were giving in a way that drew attention to themselves.  They were, after all, “rich” and it must have been readily apparent they were rich as they gave their offerings.  I mean, they didn’t wear signs that said, “I am rich!” so there must have been some other way an ordinary observer could discern that they were rich.  And, of course, it is found in the fact that verse 42 says that these people were rich because “they put in much.”


Now again, the text doesn’t condemn these rich people for putting in much, but it is possible that some of them may have given in a way that drew attention to themselves.  Remember Jesus’ warnings about this elsewhere?  He says in Matthew 6:1-4:


1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

 2 “Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.

 3 “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

 4 “that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.


Many commentators note that the temple contained 13 containers to collect the money people brought to the temple treasury.  These 13 containers were shaped like long trumpets with the bell part upward.  People would come into the treasury and drop their money into the various trumpet-shaped containers which, of course carried the noise of the coins clanging their way down through them.  So rich people would enter into the treasury, perhaps displaying a rather big, bag of coins and then put those coins into the trumpets, maybe taking their time and making as much noise as possible: Clang! Clang! Clang!


Like the man who stood up in the church service and said, “I’d like to make a special $1,000 donation to the church—anonymously!”


So here comes this “poor widow,” verse 41 says, who came and “threw in two mites.”  Two mites!  Even today when we hear the word mite and we think of these microscopic creatures so small as to be nearly invisible.  This was like the two coins the widow gave.  The Greek word is “lepta.”  She gave two “lepta.”  Leptos means “peeled or stripped.”  I remember seeing these coins in the museum at Southern Seminary.  They are very small, thin coins that were worth practically nothing.


So do you see the contrast here?  You’ve got these rich people, probably carrying bags of big coins and clanking their money into the trumpet containers and it’s echoing all through the temple.  Then this widow comes in and drops these two small, razor thin coins, light as a feather and if you’re sitting more than about a foot away you can’t even hear them falling into the container.  But Jesus commends this woman and her gift.


I suppose we could “guilt” people into giving from this verse: “Jesus sees everything!  He sees your giving today!  You’d better watch out, because He’s watching you!”


But I find encouragement in this story that Jesus does see.  He does see the things others do not see.  He sees the people others do not.  He sees the unknown people like a poor widow and her two small coins.  He sees the unpopular, behind the scenes and out of the way people.  He sees us and He loves us.  How encouraging is that?!  As the song goes, “His eye is on the sparrow—one of the smallest of birds—and I know He watches me.”  Jesus sees you.  He loves you.  Consider the manner in which you give.  Secondly:


II.  Consider the Measure by which you give


Here we are talking about the amount.  How much money does this poor widow give in her offering that day?  Again, verse 42:


42 Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.


She gave two mites, “which make a quadrans.” A quadrans was a Roman coin, the smallest of Roman currency.  Most of us are familiar with the Roman denarius.  A denarius was the equivalent of a day’s wages.  The Roman quadrans was about 1/64th of a denarius.  1/64th!  This poor widow gave practically nothing.  So verse 43:


 43 So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury;


Well you see then we have here an error in Scripture!  I never thought I’d find one, but apparently we’ve found one here.  Jesus is so mistaken!  I mean clearly the rich gave more than she!  We all heard the music those big coins made when they went into the temple treasury.  This woman gave a couple of dust mites.  You couldn’t even buy a drop of water with what she gave.  But verse 43 says she gave more than all they.  Jesus must be mistaken!  Oh, but then we read verse 44 and we see what He means:


 44 “for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”


Consider the measure by which you give.  One principle of Christian giving in the New Testament is the principle of proportionate giving.  It’s not the portion of our giving, but the proportion of our giving.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper.”  We are to give according to how we have prospered.  Some will give more or less when compared to others, but all of us must give as we have prospered.  It is not the portion that is important.  It is the proportion that is important.


What’s interesting about this poor widow is that she gives beyond even this principle.  I mean, we talked last week about the tithe.  The word “tithe” means “ten percent.”  We said that tithing is really a place to begin in our giving.  It is not a place to end.  Obedience to God begins with returning 10%, but it doesn’t end there.  Many of us prayed last week to become more generous with our giving, giving even beyond the tithe.  But this woman goes much further than most of us would ever dare.  What percentage does this poor widow give?  100%.


So verse 44 describes not only the rich of Jesus’ day.  It describes most of us today.  It’s true, isn’t it?  Jesus says, “They all put in out of their abundance.”  Don’t most of us give out of our abundance?  It doesn’t really hurt us to give.  We give from our margin, from our abundance.  When we give to the Lord, it doesn’t really cost us.  When we give, do we eat any less?  Do we entertain ourselves any less?  Do we travel any less?  Most of us give out of our abundance.  Is it wrong?  Not necessarily, but Jesus draws attention to this poor widow because she gives more than that.  It cost her to give.  She gave up control over her finances.  She became vulnerable.


You see, this matter of Christian giving is ultimately about our faith in God, about our trust in the Lord to meet our needs.  Jesus says that this poor widow, “out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”  That is, she put in “everything she had to live on.”


How do you give to the Lord “everything you have to live on?”  Good night, do you realize what this woman did?!  How many of us could give “everything we had to live on?”  The answer is, “Every one of us could give everything we had to live on.”  We could.  Now don’t worry, I’m not going to say that this passage teaches us that we should all do as the poor widow and give to the Lord everything we have to live on.  I don’t think that’s the point here.  I do think, however, that we had better realize that we “could” give to the Lord everything we had to live on.  We could.  And when we grasp this truth, then we begin to understand why you really can’t fix a percentage on giving.  If we must, then we will affix 10% as a minimum.  That’s the tithe.  That’s the minimum the Bible teaches.  But true giving goes beyond the tithe.  True giving is about the willingness to trust the Lord with everything, a willingness to give to the Lord “everything we have to live on.”


Consider the manner in which you give and the measure by which you give.  Thirdly:


III.  Consider the Motivation for which you give


We really don’t know the motivation of this poor widow in her giving “all that she had,” because the text does not say.  I do think that she had a trust in God to meet all of her needs or she wouldn’t have given what she did, but there may be other reasons that motivated her giving.


Perhaps she was motivated out of gratitude to God.  God had met her needs time and again and she is giving out of gratitude to God.  She is grateful for God’s provision and protection, by His guiding and His guarding.


Gratitude is a tremendous motivation for giving.  We say thank you to God through our gifts.  I wonder how frequently we really thank God for what He has done. Every day is a gift from God.  Every day, every breath, every act of providence.  When we learned the other day of the US Airways jetliner landing safely upon the Hudson River, was our initial reaction to say, “Thank You God, for Your providence?”  Had this been a crash resulting in death you can be sure some headline somewhere would ask, “Where was God when Flight 1549 went down?”  Well, where was God when Flight 1549 landed safely upon the Hudson?  You see, every day is a gift from God.  He doesn’t have to intervene and bless us as He does, but when He does, we should respond with gratitude.  Gratitude is a tremendous motivation for giving.


Now it may be that this woman was giving under the duress of injustice.  In the verses immediately preceding this story, Jesus had just condemned the scribes, the teachers of the law, for a number of things, including their “devouring widows’ houses.”  It may be that this poor widow felt obligated to give what she did because the scribes had forced her to do so.


That is possible, but I think unlikely given the fact that Jesus doesn’t say that and because of the greater context of the chapter.  This chapter seems to be more concerned with the matter of true discipleship.  It answers the question of the one of the scribes earlier up in verse 28.  A scribe asks, “Which is the foremost commandment?  Which is the greatest commandment of all?”  And Jesus answers, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”


True giving is motivated by true love. We give much because we have been given much.  I think Jesus knows this woman’s heart.  After all, he knew she had given all that she had to live on.  How did He know that?  How did He know?!  He knew because He knows all things.  He is omniscient, all-knowing.  He knows the heart.  And He knows that here is a woman who, through her giving, shows that she loves the Lord her God with all of her heart, her soul, her mind, and her strength.  She gave out of her poverty, yes, but in her trust to God, she shows that she has something money cannot buy.  She has love.


Our giving, whether it’s a tithe, or beyond the tithe, must also be motivated by love.  We need only look to the cross and remind ourselves what God has done for us.  God died to deal with our sins.  He took our punishment we deserved for being sinners.  He took the penalty we deserved.  He died in our place, for us.  He was raised from the dead, demonstrating that He has the power to grant eternal life to us.  If we have trusted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, then we must look to the cross of Calvary before we give.  We must always look to the cross and then make our gift on the basis of what we see there.




Will you bow your heads for prayer?  With our heads bowed and our eyes closed, let me encourage you to reaffirm whatever commitment you made to God last week about Christian giving.  Once again, this is not about your looking around at others.  I’m asking you to simply talk silently to God.  Tell Him what you intend to do today and the weeks ahead.  You may need to come together as a family to discuss this further, but talk to the Lord about tithing and about giving beyond the tithe.


  • Stand for prayer.


The widow gives her life away figuratively.  Christ gives His life away literally.  She gives everything.  He gives everything.  “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).”

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