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A Lesson On Giving Demonstrated In God's House

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Christmas In God’s House

A Lesson On Giving Demonstrated In God’s House

Mark 12:41-44

        In my study for the sermon series “The Houses of God,” it dawned on me, or The Holy Spirit revealed to me the following thought:  “Christmas actually began at The House of the Lord, i.e. in Herod’s Temple.”  Since we are suspending the series on “The Houses of God” to do four Christmas messages.  It seemed expedient to me to continue to talk about Christmas as it relates to the House of God.

        In our first message, we talked about how the first Christmas was tied up with God’s House.  Zacharias received the revelation concerning John the Baptizer, the forerunner of Jesus Christ, while carrying out his priestly duties, in Herod’s Temple.  John the Baptizer, being the forerunner of Jesus Christ, is actually the forerunner of the first Christmas.

        In the second message, we talked about the prophecies of Simeon and Anna and where they took place:  in God’s house.

        In the third message, we talked about one of Christ’s Christmas gifts:  the promise of the Father or the baptism/filling of the Holy Spirit.

        Christmas is a season that is inextricably bound to prophecy, joy, goodwill, promise, potential, and giving.

(That brings us to what I want to talk about today.)

        Today I want to discuss what should be one of the major activities of Christmas.  That activity is giving!!!  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, and the Son so loved us that He gave His life, so that He might be able to give us the promise of the Father, which is the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit so loves us that He gives His presence, and we ought to love one another enough to give our lives for each other and that is often demonstrated in the things that we give to each other.  So, Christmas ought to be about giving, not only to each other, but also to God.  But, because of the self-centered, self-conscious, self-absorbed society that we live in, we need an example or object lesson on giving.

        Well, guess what?  There is a dynamic object lesson on giving that Jesus pointed out to His disciples and it took place in God’s House.  Would you turn with me to Mark 12:41-44?  Let me read this aloud for us, as you follow along.

        The setting of this particular narrative is the treasury.  Without understanding what the treasury is, we have no idea what this narrative is all really about.  So, let’s talk about what is meant by the word “treasury.”

        Remember that Herod’s Temple was a restoration of Zerubbabel’s Temple and the plan for Zerubbabel’s Temple was based upon Solomon’s Temple.  Herod’s Temple had several courts surrounding the Temple.  First there was the Court of the Gentiles, then the Court of the Women, and then the inner Court, which was the court of Jewish men.  The Bible Knowledge Commentary states that Jesus did most of His teaching from the Court of the Gentiles.  In the narrative before us, Jesus evidently entered into the Court of the Women from the Court of the Gentiles.

(And what was this Court of the Women like?)

Well, “Against the wall of this court were 13 trumpet-shaped collection receptacles for receiving worshipers’ freewill offerings and contributions (Mishnah Shekalim 6. 5).”[1]  The Wycliffe Bible Commentary says the receptacles were for “gifts and the temple tax” (Wycliffe).  Other scholarly material suggests that “Nine chests were for the appointed money-tribute and for the sacrifice-tribute, i.e., money-gifts instead of the sacrifices; the other four chests being for freewill-offerings for wood, incense, temple decoration, and burnt offerings” (Lightfoot’s Hor. Heb.).  Mathew Henry states that one of these receptacles was for alms for the poor.  Each was marked with the purpose to which the offerings were to be devoted.  This colonnade under which these chests were placed, was called The Treasury (Wuest).  This amounted to worship!!!

        Are you getting the picture?  Let me give it to you again.  There is a court with columns surrounding that court.  There were thirteen trumpet-shaped collection receptacles for receiving freewill offerings for the business of the Temple.

So if we would modernize the backdrop, this would be equivalent to passing the offering baskets in church.  It is very sad that we do not realize that “how” and “what” we put in the offering plate amounts to one form of worship.  That is why offering time is not a time to talk or visit.  It is not intermission from the service.  It is a time of high worship of our God!!!

(This is the backdrop of the action that is about to take place.)

        The next actions are the actions of Jesus.  Jesus sat, studied, and then He spoke.

        Jesus sat down opposite one or more of these receptacles.  Jesus obviously positioned Himself intentionally to be able to watch the people putting money into the chests in the Treasury.

        As Jesus sat opposite the receptacles in the Treasury, He observed or studied how “(pos ‘in what way’)”[2] the multitude were putting money into the treasure and how many rich people were putting in large sums.  He intentionally observed or studied how the multitude was putting money into the treasury.  Notice that Jesus was not necessarily concerned with how much, but how each person gave.  He could tell a great deal about the people who were contributing to the treasury by watching how they gave.

        You can tell a lot today about the spirituality of people by observing how they give.  Because giving is very spiritual!  Giving is one form of worship!  And, in order for giving to be worship, it must be done cheerfully and with thanksgiving.  Paul covered this in

2 Corinthians 9:7, “Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

God loves the giver who gives in a cheerful manner.  The Greek word means “hilariously.”  That is why we do not beg; pass the plate twice, etc.  You should ask God what He wants you to give, purpose that in your heart, and then give it cheerfully.

So if you know something about how a person gives to God, you know something very important about that person’s spirituality or maturity.  Why?  Because you know something about how that person worships God!!!

        “It appears that Jesus continued watching the giving for some time and that he observed a number of wealthy persons making gifts” Wycliffe.  What Jesus saw was a lot of ‘gilded givers.’  The word ‘gilded’ means

“2: displaying a fine but deceptive outward appearance” (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, unabridged).

Some people only give, when they think they are going to be noticed or get recognition for their giving.  Jesus had just finished rebuking the scribes for being outwardly pious, but inwardly wicked.  Now he moves to the treasury evidently to teach the disciples another lesson on the same subject.

        The rich were putting in large sums.  Their giving seemed to be meritorious, but they were rich.  They were throwing in large sums of money evidently for appearance sake.  But what they were giving was of no consequence to them because they had plenty.

        Not only does Christ take note of the demeanor of the givers, but whether their attitude is one of liberality or stinginess.  Jesus looked at the hearts of the givers and observed the principles that they were acting upon.  He took note of whether they were giving as unto the Lord or to be seen of men.[3]

        Although most of us are not rich, I don’t think we will have any trouble relating to the way that these rich people were acting.  We probably tend to give a little bit more, depending upon who is watching us.  Well, be aware of this:  even though we are not consciously aware of it, Jesus watches what we give every time we come to church!

        This reminds me of the Internet joke “Jesus Is Watching You!”  If you are not on the Internet, let me share it with you.  There was a burglar who broke into a house to rob it, when he heard a voice, from the dark, say, “Jesus is watching you!”  This startled him and he shinned his flashlight in the direction of the voice, when again he heard a voice say, “Jesus is watching you!”  The burglar searching for the voice asked who said that.  His flashlight illuminated a parrot that said, “Moses.”  The burglar was relieved it was a parrot, but replied to the parrot.  Who in the world would name a parrot Moses?  The parrot responded, “The same person who would name a rottweiler Jesus!!!”

        Jesus is certainly not a rottweiler, but He is watching us and He is a lot more formidable than a dog!

(Now, notice there was a multitude of people throwing money into the treasury and many of them were rich.  Evidently, this kind of open giving drew those who wanted to display their piety.  Today some churches print a list of contributors and their contributions, just for this purpose.

Then something curious happened:  the greatest giver unveiled herself.)

A poor widow came and put two small copper coins in the treasury.

poor 4434 ptocheuo “be or become (extremely) poor in contrast to ploutein (rich).”

“Of the Greek synonyms for poverty, Mark chose a word descriptive of the beggarly condition of a pauper in order to characterize this poor widow” (Wycliffe).

So this widow was not just lower middle class, she was literally in the class with beggars.  The Greek says she put in two ‘lepta’ (mites) which amount to a ‘kodrantes’ (farthing).

“A mite (lepton) was the smallest of copper coins, normally equal to one-eighth of a cent (Arndt, p. 473).

The farthing (kodrantes) was a Roman coin valued at one-quarter of a cent (Arndt, p. 438)” (Wycliffe).

The New American Standard translators give this widow the benefit of the doubt and rounded her gift upward to one penny.  She actually gave about 1/4 of a penny.

        A quarter of a cent wasn’t worth much back then and it isn’t worth much today.  I saw a news story, a while back, on the fact that a lot of merchants want the government to discontinue the use of the penny.  The merchants were complaining that people hold up their checkout lines and irritate other customers looking for pennies to pay the exact bill.  As a part of the report, the reporter put three or four pennies on a crowded street to see the reaction of people walking by.  Nobody stopped to pick up the pennies.  Pennies are not worth much, but it was all this woman had to give.

        Now this is very curious indeed!  How can a widow, who is a pauper, be the greatest giver of all; when all of these rich people were throwing in so much money.

        Secondarily, it was curious that this woman was there in the first place.  It seems that only the rich and well-to-do were there.  It was curious that she thought her two mites were valuable enough to bring to the Temple treasury.  It was curious that she was not ashamed to walk up and put in such a small amount, while others were proudly casting in large amounts.  But, evidently she was giving for a different reason than all the rest.  This widow was the World’s Greatest Giver, because, believe it or not, she had given the world’s greatest gift.

(Now what does this have to do with Christmas and God’s house?)

Christmas is about giving and the greatest giver gave the greatest gift in God’s house!!!  We need to learn from this widow how to give in the style and motif of the Father, who gave His Son, Jesus Christ, that we might be saved.

(So, let’s take note of what Jesus observed about this widow’s giving that was so outstanding.  This woman was the world’s greatest giver, because of the way that she gave the world’s greatest gift.  Now why was this the world’s greatest gift?)

1.      It was the greatest gift, because the Lord took note of it (v. 43).

Jesus called the disciples to note this widow’s gift.  We already know that He was observing how people were giving.  So, evidently, the manner in which this widow gave caused Jesus to also take note of her gift.  He used this act of giving, by this poor widow, as an object lesson for His disciples.

        One principle that we should learn from this object lesson is:  the manner of giving always matches the true value of the gift.  If you give in an ostentatious, showy manner, we can know that your gift isn’t worth much.  If you give grudgingly or compulsively, once again we know that you gift isn’t worth much.  But if you give from a humble, cheerful attitude, we should know that your gift is worth a great deal.  In other words, if our attitude is profane, our gift will be small, i.e. compared to what we have.  If our attitude is worshipful, then our gift will be sacrificial compared to what we have.

        How many of us do you think Jesus can use as an object lesson today?  This is a question that can only be answered by each one of us for himself/herself.  Don’t you want to be an example of giving that God can use to exhort the maturity of others?  Don’t you want to be an example of the Christmas spirit of giving?  Well, I do!!!

        Some of you may be thinking, “It’s too late, because I already gave my gifts for this year!”  God can lay it upon your heart to give a fresh gift to others and to Him.

(Let’s continue on with why this widow’s gift was the greatest of its time.)

2.      It was the greatest gift, in comparison to the others.

At this time, among human beings, i.e. not counting Jesus Christ, she had to be the greatest giver in the world.  I can remember no one else being pointed out quite so strikingly for their giving.  Jesus commended her giving as greater than any others.  How so?  It is called equal sacrifice.  This widow gave more of what she had than the rich gave of what they had.  This is applicable to tithes.  Ten percent of everyone’s income is equal sacrifice.  This widow gave all that she had, when the rich probably gave only one or two percent of what they had.

        If I was going to be commended by anyone, I would want to be commended by Jesus Christ.  Who do you want to commend you for your giving?  United Way?  Your boss?  Your church?

(Let’s continue on with why this widow’s gift was the greatest of its time.)

3.      It was the greatest gift, because of its source.

The gilded givers gave gilded gifts.  The rich gave out of their surplus.

surplus 4052 perisseuo  “properly what is left over; the meaning in this case is abundance” (Arndt & Gingrich).

Their giving was like that of the scribes that Jesus had just rebuked.  Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart!  God knew how and what each person was giving.  He compared the rich to this widow.  They gave superficially, but this widow gave sacrificially.  They gave out of their plenty, but this woman gave out of her poverty.

        Don’t we give to the Lord out of our surplus, out of our abundance?  Don’t we figure out our bills first and then give the Lord what is left?  Don’t we buy what we want and then give the Lord the change from our purchases?  I don’t want to do that.  I want to be a giver that Jesus takes note of!

        Don’t you want to be a giver that Jesus takes note of?  Then we must give to the local church according to His standards.  The world’s greatest giver, in the eyesight of Jesus, is a person who gives sacrificially.  We don’t have to give 100% of our income, but we must give sacrificially if we want to get the Lord’s attention.  Those who give sacrificially are noted by Jesus.

She gave out of her poverty.  It takes love to motivate us to give out of our poverty.

        Most people see poverty as a legitimate reason for not giving to the Lord, but poverty is no excuse for not giving to the Lord!

2 Corinthians 8:1-3, “Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.  For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord.”

(Let’s continue on with why this widow’s gift was the greatest of its time.)

4.      It was the greatest gift, because of its percentage.

(Some are probably wondering, "How do you know what the percentage of her gift was?"  Because of the words in the text.)

She “put in all that she owned”.  She gave 100%.  “The principle enunciated by our Lord on this occasion is that a gift is to be evaluated not by its size, but by a comparison of the gift with the total amount possessed by the giver” (Wycliffe).  Jesus evaluated the widow’s giving on the basis of the percentage of her gift to her total income.

        I have stated before and I state again unequivocally, “If I know how much a person makes and how much he/she gives and with what attitude he/she gives it, I can tell you a great deal about the spirituality of that person!”  I periodically review the percentage that I am giving.  The percentage is much more important than the amount.  I think that ten percent is a good place to start!


5.      It was the greatest gift, because of its sacrificial nature.

She gave all she had to live on.  This widow gave sacrificially.

        Sacrificial giving requires a proper attitude.  The proper attitude is reverence or worship that is grounded in thanksgiving.

        Sacrificial giving of this magnitude requires faith.  Faith requires trust in the goodness of God.

        Trust in the goodness of God implies a deep knowledge of and love for God.  Only love and thankfulness could motivate such a gift.

Worship is sacrificial in nature.

Here we have here an object lesson on giving that took place in God’s house.  Some of the greatest giving and the greatest lessons on giving should occur at Christmas time in God’s house!!!

(Now is the Day of Salvation.  Come to Jesus, Now!)


Call to Discipleship


[1] Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[2] Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[3] Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.

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