Sunday, September 2, 2012
Pastor David Lewellyn
Follow the Leader!
Part 11–True Generosity
Hello, Life Center. Welcome to September. School is back. Do we have any teachers here? Anyone that works with the school district? Any students? Anyone going back to college?
ILL: A while back I was visiting a college campus and I was supposed to meet someone in one of the buildings. The problem when I visit anywhere is that I am terrible with directions. I never know where I am. I get lost very easily. My wife always has to help me.
The easiest place for me to get lost is the mall. I think everyone gets lost in the mall. It’s the one place I’m on equal footing with everyone. There are people who walk laps around the mall and we are led to believe they are exercising. I am not so sure. I think they are just looking for a way out! Anyway, I get lost easy. And as I was looking for my friend on the campus of this college, I quickly found myself lost. I began to ask for help and as people gave me landmarks to help me find my way, I soon picked up a theme. Colleges give their buildings first and last names. Now we don’t normally give buildings first and last names. If you ask for my mailing address, I will not tell you, Samuel. So why do College buildings get named? They are named after people who have made great and generous contributions to the school.
It got me thinking, if the kingdom of God were a physical place with structures, whose names would be on the buildings? What does it take to be a great and generous contributor in God’s kingdom?
We are going to look at a story today of a widowed woman whom Jesus said made a contribution greater than all the contributions of all the richest people of her day combined. We are going to learn from her about true generosity. Let’s begin by praying.
Jesus, we are here for you and we want to hear from you. As we read your words, teach us, challenge us, and change us. Help us to be great followers of you. Help us to be generous just as you are generous to us. Amen.
We are going to be talking about giving and generosity today, so I’m going to ask now for the ushers to go ahead lock the exits as we go into the greeting time. No, I’m kidding. We are going to take a minute or two to meet the people around us and as we do I want you to ask each other this question:
What is the most recent generous act you have seen?
Today, we are continuing to learn from the book of Mark, a book we have been working our way through this summer. If you brought your Bible or cell phone or tablet or desktop computer, you’ll want to find Mark 12. Remember, bring your Bible to church. We are going to use it every week.
As you are opening your Bibles, I’m going to ask the ushers to come and collect the offering. As always, thank you for your generosity.
We are using the SOAP method, as we work through the scripture. A method many of us use for our daily time with Jesus in PBJ or Prayer, Bible, and Journal.
Scripture: Read the Bible.
Observation: What does it mean?
Application: What does it mean to me?
Prayer: Pray it back to God.
I’m going to read through the story today in Mark 12 and then make some observations about it; after we look at Jesus’ teaching in the story, we are going to end with some practical ways we can apply what we learned to our lives today.
The Big Idea: Generosity is measured by what you sacrifice.
41 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 fraction of a penny.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, 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.”
As we learned last week, Jesus is on the last week of his life. It is Tuesday when this story happens and he will be crucified on Friday. Jesus knows that he will be giving his life soon. We see here he chooses to use some of his last moments on earth observing the generosity of this widow.
Just prior to this story, we read of Jesus getting into a series of conflicts with the sadducees and the pharisees. The sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection. They didn’t believe in the supernatural. Their belief was a kind of “do-good-be-nice-to-everyone-and-it-will-all-work-out” type of belief. They didn’t believe in the afterlife or the punishment of God. On the other side, the pharisees were a very religious people, but they didn’t have very much grace. They wanted to follow the rules well enough to earn God’s acceptance and avoid his judgement. The pharisees and the sadducees deeply disagreed with each other, and Jesus disagreed with them both. God does have standards for righteousness and he will punish sin and unrepentant sinners, but also, you cannot earn your righteousness by your own works. You cannot make yourself good enough. As Joe pointed out so well last week, Jesus made himself the issue. Both thought they could be right with God, through their own ways. They were both wrong. Jesus said, he is the only way to be made righteous before God. He is the only way to make us good in God’s eyes, and he is the only one who can spare us from the judgement of God. It’s about Jesus!
Jesus continually made himself the issue through his conflicts with the Pharisees and the sadducees. Leading in to today’s story Jesus rebukes the Sadducees.
38 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.”
ILL: A few summers back, someone gave my family a bag of cherries they had picked from their cherry tree. They were big and beautiful Rainier cherries. We began eating them right away and they were delicious. When we were about halfway through the bag, I bit into a cherry and looked at it. It had a bug in it. I then dissected many other cherries only to realize that these cherries were big because they all had bugs in them. We had been eating bug-filled cherries. Needless to say, we threw the bag away.
Jesus says in these verses that the teachers of the law looked big and great on the outside with their flowing robes and important seats, but they only got that way because they had stolen from widows and used God for a show. They were rotten on the inside and they would be punished severely.
When Jesus is done with this harsh rebuke of the religious teachers, he sits down and observes the kindness and generosity of the widow as she gives her two coins. There are a few things i want us to observe about this passage. The first is this:
Observation 1: Jesus watched people give.
The King James Version translates it this way:
41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury
I like this translation because it seems to allude to the fact that Jesus not only saw the people giving, but also how they were giving. I’m not talking about technique. It wasn’t like he cared how acrobatically they could give their offerings, I’m saying he could see their heart. He could see their motives.
Jesus looks at us when we give. He notices how much we give. But as Jesus looks, he is more interested in how we give than in how much we give. God looks at the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7
…The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
At the temple treasury there were 13 big, brass, trumpet looking containers where people would give their offerings. They didn’t have paper money back then, so if you were going to give your offering, it was going to be loud. The coins hitting the brass would make a noise. It would be a lot like the man who stood up in church and shouted, “I would like to give $100 anonymously.” It would be easy to tell when someone was making a big offering, but more difficult to tell when they were giving something small. But God noticed and God still notices.
God wants us to be generous people. Not just at church, and not just with our money. Everywhere and with everything. At work, at home, in our community and abroad. With our money, our time, our energy, our talents, and our possessions. God wants us to be generous. Generosity is a matter of the heart. And God loves when we give joyfully.
2 Corinthians 9:7
7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
God doesn’t need your money, he wants your heart! And when your money has your heart, God doesn’t. God doesn’t want what we have, he wants us. And he doesn’t want what we have to have us. God wants us to cheerfully acknowledge that all we have is his.
ILL: My wife watches our friend’s son every week. He and my daughter love to play together, but they don’t always like to share. Sometimes we have to intervene and say, to our daughter, “Galilee (that’s her name), you need to share. She shares, but her attitude isn’t great. She’s not happy about it. But there are other times when she will walk up to her friend and give him her favorite toy that she knows he likes to play with, too. She does this because she likes her friend. Which scenario do you think makes us happier as parents? Yeah, when she’s willing and excited to share.
ILL: Guys, you’ll be able to identify with this. When you are at a restaurant and it comes time to order and the waiter gets to your wife and she says, “I’ll just share off of his.” You know that you have a very important decision to make about your attitude. “If you say, whoa, whoa, whoa, I ordered my food for me.” It’s going to be a long night for you. But if you say, “That is great, I love sharing with you.” You are going to be better off. Our wives love when we are cheerful in our giving.
God knows how much we give and he knows our motivation in giving. We should be like the widow and give with a generous heart.
Observation 2: Jesus commented on it.
We aren’t going to spend a lot of time on this observation, I just think it’s interesting. In a minute, we are going to talk about what Jesus said about the widow’s giving, but I want us to start by acknowledging that it’s interesting that he commented at all.
I mentioned earlier that this is the last week of Jesus life. Jesus knows he doesn’t have much time left on earth. Yet he takes a moment to comment on a widow woman giving two small coins in an offering.
ILL: It’s fairly common these days for people to have a bucket list. A list of things they want to accomplish in life before they die. There are often fun things on this list, like skydiving, or seeing the pyramids. There are usually meaningful things on the list as well; visiting family members you haven’t seen in a long time, or forgiving someone who hurt you. Bucket lists can say a lot about us and what is important to us.
Now as far as I know, Jesus didn’t have a bucket list, and I’m doubtful that he ever skydived. We do however get a picture of what Jesus chose to do in his last days on earth as we read the scripture and because of that can see what was important to him. Jesus confronted those who were leading people astray with their false teachings about what it takes to be made right with God. This is good. This is something I think we would all hope to do. But then we see him sit and watch people. Much like what you do when you sit down at a coffee shop. And he notices a widowed woman give 2 small coins. Then he teaches on it. This was obviously important to him. Important enough that he made a teaching moment out of it for his disciples. Important enough that he put it in the Bible for us to learn from this generous woman. Generosity is important to God, because generosity says a lot about the condition of the heart.
1 Corinthians 13:3
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Jesus watched many people give much more money than the widow, but he didn’t see anyone do it with more love. The widow gave for the right reason and Jesus wanted us to know about it. Let’s learn from her.
Observation 3: Jesus taught that true generosity is measured not by how much we give but by how much we sacrifice.
So what was it that made the widow’s offering so special to Jesus? Jesus tells us in verse 44:
44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
The others gave out of their margin. They knew that they would still have money to live off of. The widow did not. Jesus tells us that she gave everything she had to live on. She gave a sacrifice. She could only rely on God for provision. She had nothing else to rely on. Her offering was an offering of complete trust. Complete devotion. The scripture tells us that she had two coins and she could have kept one for herself, but she chose to give them both. Staggering generosity. Jesus says in verse 43:
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.
ILL: Imagine taking a huge scale and emptying the contents of all thirteen trumpet shaped containers on to that scale. Then on the other side of that scale you place the widow’s two coins.
This is what Jesus is saying. Her two coins outweighed them all. It wasn’t greater than any of them, it was greater than all of them. Combined.
This shows us the heart of Jesus. The person who gave the least, gave the most. It wasn’t the biggest gift in terms of total value, it was the biggest gift in terms of love and sacrifice. It was a gesture of extreme devotion, faith, and generosity.
Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 specifically to teach the rich to be generous because their generosity will build their treasure in heaven.
1 Timothy 6:17-19
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
The Bible tells us it is foolish for us to put our hope in our wealth. Our hope belongs only in Jesus. Giving generously is a way to help us keep our hope in the right place.
Now it’s time for the prying and painful questions. The questions that help us identify if our giving is the type of giving God is looking for. Not just our money, but our time, our talents, our energy, and our posessions–our everything.
Does your giving ever cost you anything?
Do you only give from your excess?
Do you only give what is comfortable, or do you ever give until it hurts?
What is your generosity saying about your faith?
Are you giving your whole life to God daily and trusting him to take care of you?
If you are having trouble answering these questions the way the Bible would have you answer these questions, the problem is most likely not in your giving, it’s in your heart.
These can be difficult questions. But these are the traits of the widow who gave so generously. But they aren’t just the traits of the widow. These are also the traits of Jesus. How can Jesus ask us for everything? The answer is simple, yet profound. Because Jesus gave his everything for us.
1 Corinthians 8:9
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
When we are generous we are saying something profound about the God we follow. When we give our time, talent, energy, and possessions–our whole life–completely to him, we aren’t trying to repay him, we’re trying to be like him. All of this applies to what we give to God at church, but to much more, too. We are to have a generous heart in all things.
So how do we apply this? This is the part where I’m sure many of you think you can finish this sermon for me. “Tell us to give more” But that’s not what I’m going to do. I have 3 application steps for us.
For the first, I want us to look again at 2 Corinthians 9:7:
2 Corinthians 9:7
7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
The first application step I want us to leave with is this: take some time this week and decide in your heart what you should give. Pray about it. Ask God what he wants you to give. Then give it cheerfully. Time, talent, and treasure. Whatever he asks, say yes.
The second is a fun thing that our church is doing. Watch this video about our partnership with youshare.org.
We are called to be generous, so why not start with the needs that we have right here in our church. Helping each other is what churches do. This is something great that can help this big church feel small. Check the tear-off tab on your program for information on how you can get involved.
The third application step is this, and unfortunately it isn’t available for everyone but it is available for some who want to take a step toward generosity right now, this very moment. We are going to have a service auction. It will be first come first served. I will present some needs people or ministries in our church and community have, and ask for one of you, or a family, or a small group to come up here and adopt that project.
We have now come to the end of our SOAP method and it is time for prayer. Let’s pray as we leave today.
God, help us to be generous because you were and are generous to us. Guide us as we decide in our hearts what to give to. Help us to realize that all we have is yours. Be blessed in the way we live our lives generously for you. In Jesus’ name, Amen!