GIVING TO THE LORD
Sermon preached by Mr. D. G. Crowter, on Lord’s Day morning, 25th August 1991, at Gower
Street Memorial Chapel.
‘And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them. Verily I say unto you. That his poor widow hath cast more in than all they that have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living”. Mark 12.43-44.
There are many surprises in the Word of God. There are many things that we might have expected to find, which are not found. During the period in which the Bible was written there were great battles fought which so altered the course of nations; we find not a mention of them. Then with regard to the life of Jesus Himself, how interested we would have been to find out more about His life between His birth and His ministry; but there is but one incident in all that time described. Dear friends, in all these things we have to acknowledge that God is supremely sovereign, and that He has recorded what was according to
His own will.
And then there are those things which we never would have expected to find; little ordinary incidents as they might appear. They might have seemed so insignificant; and yet they are recorded, and they have had such an immense effect on the people of God through the ages. Here Jesus was sitting watching those who cast in money into the treasury. He pointed out this particular passing event, which has so affected people all over the world since then. Who would have thought that this poor widow, just performing this simple action, would have been known all over the world – though not by name? Who has not heard of the ‘widow’s mite’? Indeed the very piece of money, the very sum that
is mentioned here, is really famous because of what this one poor woman did.
Now this word is in striking contrast to what we read just before this event. There were the scribes. Jesus said, “Beware of the scribes.” These were very religious people. They used to copy out the Law of God and teach it. But Jesus says, “Beware of them – these are often hypocrites.” What do they do? “They love to go in long clothing”, whereas this woman was evidently very poorly dressed. “They loved salutations in the market places, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts”. O they wanted to be in the public eye; they wanted every one to admire them. And notice this: “which devour widows’ houses.” In their grasping greed, they had no pity for those which were like this poor widow. They would have extracted the last mite from such a person. What terrible cruelty and harshness! And yet “for a pretence they make long prayers.” Jesus said, “These shall receive greater damnation” – stricter judgement. Because of their prominent position, they would be more strictly judged at last. How exactly opposite to their attitude to this poor widow was the Saviour’s! How it stands in such complete contrast to what these scribes were doing! How very different she was in the way that she acted from these scribes, with all their rapacity and greed! O dear friends. God sees us as we really are. It is no use making any pretence as far as He is concerned. This passage teaches very plainly what the Word of God declares elsewhere, “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh upon the heart”.
Now here Jesus was watching over this collection. In the outer court, the woman’s court of the temple, a great crowd was passing through. In that part there were thirteen trumpet-shaped chests for receiving from the people the money they were willing to give.
Each was apparently labelled with a different Hebrew letter which showed where the money was to go. (I suppose that it was similar in a way to what you see at the Dartford Tunnel with those funnels which are used for motorists to throw their toll money in). There were these chests standing there. And Jesus sat over against the treasury and beheld the people.
“Many that were rich cast in much.” He does not say a word about them. But He particularly points out this one person, who had done such a remarkable deed; one that was like Mary of Bethany, with her anointing of the Saviour’s feet; like one that did what was to be told for a memorial of her wheresoever the gospel is preached. Surely this is most remarkable as we come to this tender account and see a little more of the wonderful way in which Jesus acted and spoke and felt. Surely we should give attention to these things. You know, dear friends, that it is no design of mine that we should come to this section on the last day of the month, when our own collections especially are taken. It is not for that purpose at all, but because there is such a spiritual lesson to be found here. So
the subject here is; “Giving to the Lord”.
First we must notice the widow’s action; and then the Saviour’s reaction to it. There is the widow’s action. In the two accounts of this it is especially emphasised that she was a poor widow. There are two different words used which are translated ‘poor’. One implies that she was one who had to work for her living; and of course the rest of this account implies that. She cast in all her living, all that she had earned by her hard work – and it was only just a trifle; she cast it all into the collection for the house of God. The other word implies that it could be seen that she was poor. Her clothing must have been in sharp contrast to those long robes of the scribes and the Sadducees – their rich robes which they liked to parade in front of others. It must have been her very clothing which pronounced her poverty. It could be seen that she was so poor. And yet she gave all that she had!
Now first we must notice that this act of this widow was an act of faith. She had no money left to buy any food at all. She certainly had none to buy any new clothes. She only had two mites, which make a farthing. This quantity would be about a sixtieth of the penny which is mentioned earlier in the chapter as brought to the Saviour. A penny, or a denarius, was normally a working man’s daily wage. So clearly this woman had earned very little with her labour. But she had two mites. We would have thought it very generous if she had cast one into the treasury, and kept the other for her own need. But these two little coins were both cast in. And it is particularly emphasised in the original language that she cast in whatsoever she had, even all her living. What was she to do tomorrow? What was she to do for food? Surely she was one who could trust that to the Lord Himself. And we may be certain that He did not fail to provide when she had performed this act from her heart,
It reminded me of an incident early in the life of Hudson Taylor, who later became the leader of the China Inland Mission, and was so wonderfully blessed of God in that. Early in his life he learnt this lesson. As a young man one Lord’s Day, when he had been preaching and visiting the poor and so on, at ten o’clock at night he was asked to visit a woman who was very ill. Her husband was there, and asked him to come. And he took him into this very poor building. And as he went there he had in his pocket, half-a-crown in the old coinage, which is twelve-and-a-half pence in our own money nowadays. It was all in one piece, you see. And as he went he thought, “If it had only been two separate shillings and a sixpence, how gladly I would give one shilling to these poor people”. And then he saw what sort of state they were in. The woman was very ill, and might not last the night without medicine;
and she had a little baby and four starving children there. Then he began to think, “If only
I had the money split up, I would gladly have given
her one shilling and sixpence, and kept one shilling”; because he himself had no other money for his dinner the next day. It was all the money that he had. He spoke to these people. He tried to tell them that there was a heavenly Father who was able to supply their need; and yet he felt such a hypocrite with that money in his pocket. He tried to pray, and found it so difficult because his conscience was accusing him. And at the end he felt, “If only I had two-shillings and one sixpence, I would gladly give the two-shillings now”. The man said to him, “You see what a situation we are in, how greatly we need medicine for my dear wife. If you can do anything (and he no doubt said it reverently) for God’s sake help us”. And the word came with power to Hudson Taylor, “Give to him that asketh thee”. Then he put his hand in his pocket and gave all the money that he had. And he wrote afterwards that he went back home with his heart as light as his pocket, singing the praises of God who had so appeared and had made him willing to give all the money that he had for that poor family. The next morning came. He was not used to receiving any post at all on Mondays. But that morning his landlady brought in a little packet. He could not decipher the post-mark or the writing at all (I do not think he ever found out where it came from). But in the packet there was a half-sovereign; which was four times what he had given the night before. You see, that is the way in which the Lord works. “God loveth a cheerful giver”. Somewhat against his will, because he was very poor, Hudson Taylor had been constrained to give that money. And he wrote afterwards, “How the merchants in Hull would be glad to know of a bank which pays interest like this – 300%, after only twelve hours investment!” And at once he resolved to put all his money into the ‘bank of faith’; and he never regretted it.
Now this woman, like Hudson Taylor in the end, could trust God only; could trust God although she had nothing, trust Him to provide for her the next day, and in the coming days, what she needed. Although we have no further history of her, we may be sure that the faithful God supplied her needs. As the Lord Jesus so commended it, so the Father in heaven most mercifully and abundantly supplied her wants.
Then this was not only an act of faith, but an act of love. It was surely the love in her heart that prompted her to do this. And that is the one great motive for serving the Lord and giving to Him. I was struck by the way in verse 30 the Saviour announced the great command; “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength”. There are four ‘alls’ there, as also in the way that the scribe there repeated it; and he did not leave any of them out either. And then in these last two verses there are four more ‘alls’. Two refer to the people, the ‘all they’ compared with this woman;
the other two refer to what she did. “But she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living”. It is remarkable that there should be
this link together between these two incidents. Surely this woman acted out of love in her heart. This is why she gave, why she could give. She loved the house of God, and that God who dwelt in that house; in that temple where the sacrifices were made which showed that the one great remedy for sin was shortly to be provided. It was only a matter of a few days after this that Jesus made the one great Sacrifice for sins. Now clearly this woman acted out of love. It is not so much a question of what we give as what we have left. Those rich men who gave much had much left afterwards; this widow who gave little had nothing left at all. That showed her love to the Lord.
Well, love is not so much a matter of feeling and speaking; it is a matter of giving, of giving up; it is a matter of action. John says in his first Epistle, “Beloved, let us not love in word, or in tongue, but in deed and in truth”. This woman showed by what she did how much she loved the house of God. Who else would have given all that she had? How much have you given? How much have we given? This is not just a matter of history, Scripture history.
What this woman did has affected people all over the world since those days. A little while ago there was a young lad who had been saving up for a long time to buy a bicycle. And one day he said to his parents that he wanted to draw it all out and put it in the collection. And they questioned him to make sure whether he really wanted to do this, but his mind was clearly set on it, and that is what he did. He gave all that he possessed in this way to the house of God. Well, the Lord knows why that was done, and He knows why it is and how it is that we give. I think I really ought to say that it is a wonder to me, and I am sure to others, how willingly and how much you people here do give to the support of the house of God. It is very wonderful how our needs are all supplied. And I am not saying these things, I am not saying these things so that anyone should think that he or she ought to give everything that he or she has in this way to the house of God. If you were to do it out of a sense of duty that could not be acceptable like this woman’s gift was. If you were to do it in the vain hope that the Lord would bless you because you had given, that would surely be quite wrong and quite unsuitable in this context. It is those who give out of love to the Lord whom the Lord so delights to see. It is this love that we need in our hearts, the love that was found so evidently in those people the apostle Paul mentions when writing to the Corinthians – those of Macedonia who had given so liberally out of their necessity, out of their poverty. They had given beyond all that they were really able to give. And why was it? Well surely, it was because “they first gave their own selves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God”. Having given .themselves, money did not matter very much to them; that was a secondary thing. But they had given their own selves to the Lord.
And this shows also in the third place here that this widow’s act was in act of devotion.
Had she only given one of these mites that would
have seemed a good deal. Half of her living? That would have been a very high proportion.
That would have shown love to the Lord, no doubt; but because she gave all it showed how devoted she was to the Lord and His house. She sacrificed what she could very well have done with for her own support. She gave it freely; she cast it into the treasury of the Lord.
This spirit of devotion to Him is so desirable: and I fear it is relatively so rare. It is that spirit which truly brings one to say:
“In full and glad surrender
I give myself to Thee,
Thine utterly, and only
And evermore to be.
O Son of God who loves me
I will be Thine alone,
And all I have, and all I am
Shall henceforth be Thine own”.
All! Does the love of Christ constrain you to give all – all that you have? The hymn says:
“Poor helpless worms in Thee possess
Grace, wisdom, power, and righteousness;
Thou art our mighty All; may we
Give our whole selves, O Lord, to Thee”.
Do you ever come there – to give your whole self?
Now in this we can scarcely forget the Saviour Himself – where He was going, how much He gave. In just a few hours from this He was to lay down His life; He was to give His all for the salvation of His people. And O how costly that was! He was on the way to Gethsemane, to sweat great drops of blood in the agony of His soul. He was on the way to Calvary, so willingly to lay down His life in such unutterable love for His sheep. Can you really believe that, and see your own interest in it, and hold anything back? We were singing those words recently:
“Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold”.
This woman did not hold one back; she gave her all, “even all her living”. Are you anything like that?
We must hasten to consider the Saviour’s reaction to this: because that is what has made it especially well-known. He did not let this incident pass by. First we must notice the emphasis He put on it. He called unto Him His disciples. Here was something that was to be pointed out to His twelve disciples. You might like to notice at your leisure the five previous incidents in this gospel where Jesus called His
disciples together. It was always for some specially important reason;
to reprove them, or to teach them something particularly. But here it was because of one poor woman who had cast two mites into the treasury! Before she disappeared He would call
His disciples’ attention to this person. It is emphasised in the Greek language – this one poor widow. One, distinguished from all the rest. He did not point out to the disciples all those who had given much by human calculations; but this one person. He noticed her. He singled her out; He knew exactly what she had done; and He was not going to let her pass out of view until He had pointed her out to His disciples as an outstanding person. He would say in effect, “Come here, all of you. Look! Here is a person who has just done a wonderful, mighty deed in the sight of God”. So He begins, “Verily I say to you” – verily is our word
‘Amen’. “Verily I say unto you” – again He points out the importance of what He is going to say. This is specially emphasised by the Saviour Himself.
Secondly, we must notice what He said with regard to this; how His evaluation of it was given, what estimate He made of this. He said, “This poor widow has cast more in than all they which have cast into the treasury”. That must have astonished the disciples; because they must have seen that she was very poor, whereas the others were very rich. This is completely in contradiction to all human estimates and calculations. How few there are that see this as Jesus saw it! Now God does not need anything. He does not have any need whatsoever, He does not need our money. And in a sense, money is quite immaterial to Him.
But He does so welcome a heart like this, and a deed of this kind. So the Saviour accounted that in His view, in the view of God, that this woman had given more than all the others. They had cast in great sums of money; Jesus did not say anything against that; it would all be useful in the house of God. But there was something very special about this gift. So He says that this in the sight of God is worth more than all the rest, because out of the faith and love and devotion of her heart this woman had given all that she had.
And then notice also the enjoyment that this implies. The Saviour was “a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. All His hours and days and years He had suffered intensely, and
His greatest sufferings were just before Him. O how the pride, envy, malice, greed, covetousness and hypocrisy of so many around Him must have grieved Him to the heart! O with what sadness He would have said, “Beware of the scribes which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers”. But you may be sure that this little incident brought a tremendous joy to the Saviour’s heart. Surely what He saw this widow do flooded His heart with pure delight. Here was something He could truly delight in, because it was so acceptable to God. It showed such evidence of the faith and the love of this poor woman.
Here, for this brief moment in the Saviour’s life, there was something which filled
His heart with the purest joy. His loving heart, surely, was deeply affected with this moving event. Indeed we may say the words that He spoke really showed His eagerness to express His great joy with regard to this: “Verily I say unto you that this poor widow hath cast more in than all they which have cast into the treasury; for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living”. How wonderful that was! This poor widow had no idea what she had done. She could not have known that Jesus was watching, and that this offering of hers, so freely given from her heart, had so deeply affected Him. It is the same still. Jesus still sees all that we give, all that we do. Much, it is to be feared, is very grieving to Him; but there is still that to be seen which causes Him such joy and pleasure; these deeds, these little deeds of love.
How do these things affect you? They certainly affected the Saviour very deeply. What effect do they have on your heart? Is it surprise? Are you surprised that this should be?
That God’s view of the matter should be so different from man’s? That He should so warmly approve a little gift like this? We may of course be certain, absolutely certain, that the
Saviour’s estimate of this gift was the right one. In the sight of God, she had cast in more than all the others.
Does it affect your heart with shame? This woman gave so much; she gave her all. Far more than that, the incarnate Son of God was about to give all that He could give, to lay down
His life as a ransom for many. Are you ashamed of what you have given? One man, who became an eminent man of God afterwards, was so affected at one time by a view of the
Saviour’s cross that it seemed as though the Saviour said to him, “I gave all this for you; and what have you given for Me?” It is but a little we can give at most. If we give our all, it is but little. And what can be the answer to such a question as that? “Lord, take my all, this worthless heart. And make it only Thine.”
Shame itself is not enough. It is good when it leads to self-abasement, when it brings us to the Saviour’s feet like that; when it brings us truly down, humbles us at the Saviour’s feet and brings us to confess our ingratitude and to devote our lives afresh to Him.
Is there any stirring in your heart when we think of these things? Here was something that moved the Saviour to the depth of His heart;
it must have stirred His heart with such joy and love to see this event taking place just rapidly before His eyes. One poor widow! O may our hearts truly be stirred up in love to
Him! In a sense we see in this widow’s gift just a tiny microcosm of the sacrifice of the
Lord Jesus which was about to come. He was to lay down His life at such tremendous cost.
Certainly it cost this widow a considerable amount to do this; but O how much more it cost the Saviour in His sufferings and death! And it is He that we would see. His own tender, loving heart, His one, full Sacrifice for sins. O may we each have that faith and that love
toward Him, so that we shall truly lay our whole lives down at His feet and say, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” May the Lord thus, bless His Word to us and grant us, O grant us much of this wonderful love, this constraining love to Him.