Scriptures – 1 Kings 17:8-16; Heb. 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44; Ps. 107
Psalm 107 begins, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” It then goes on to say, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” We are to express our thanks to God; and, our readings today show us that we are to do so with more than our mouths.
It is easy to say that God is good and loving. It is more difficult to show by your actions that you believe this and are relying upon Him. But, God expects you to do so. Words of faith must be accompanied by faithful actions.
Do your actions match your words? When you sang the Introit you said of God, “He raises up the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks.” (Ps. 107:41) In other words, God helps and takes care of His people. Do the offerings that you put in the offering plate show that you believe this? You know, it’s easy to put a large check in the offering plate when you have a lot of money and a large offering will not affect your lifestyle. How about when you’re not doing so well? Will you give a generous offering then, trusting that God will take care of you?
I know that it’s uncomfortable, and perhaps even dangerous, for me to talk about what you put in the offering plate. This may make our church sound greedy. And, we all know stories of churches and pastors who have misused the contributions of their parishioners, don’t we? Even Jesus spoke of this. He warned of the scribes, the religious teachers of the people – kind of like pastors today. “[They] like to walk around in long robes and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts. [They] devour widows’ houses.” We don’t want our church to be like that! Talking about our offerings may also seem to go against the privacy you expect when it comes to what you give.
You put your offerings in envelopes, so that those around you cannot see what you give. You would never want what you give to be announced! The only thing reported is the total amount of everyone’s offerings.
In fact, I myself don’t know what any of you give. I don’t help to count the offerings and I don’t ask for any figures. I bet you’d be upset if I visited you and said, “I see you’ve been giving x amount as your weekly offering. Well, considering the car you drive and where you live, I think you should be giving x amount more.” You’d be giving Fay, or Joe Shapiro, a call!
It’s uncomfortable, and perhaps even dangerous, for me to talk about your offerings. And yet, Jesus does it. “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.” The Holy Spirit saw fit to have Mark record His teaching so that it would be read until the end of time. God sees our offerings, and He places a far greater value and importance on them than we do! There’s also our reading today from 1 Kings 17, which tells how God’s prophet expected a poor widow to give the last of her food, not to her son, but to him! He promised that, if she did, God would make sure her food did not run out. Boy, this called for faith!
You’re not being asked today to prepare the last of your food for your Pastor, or to empty your bank accounts and put all of your money into the offering plate. God is telling you to give to His work generously and to trust Him. Does He deserve such trust? If your focus is upon the things of this life you will perhaps conclude that He does not. Look at how many poor and needy people there are, after all! It’s easy to blame them, but their poverty may not be their fault. The widow Elijah stayed with was poor because God had withheld the rain. The crops died and a famine arose. And, as is so often the case, the poorest of the people, like this widow, suffered the most. Or, look at the poor widow in our Gospel reading, who put in the offering box all that she had. Jesus praises her to His disciples for doing so. Wonderful! But, He didn’t go up to her and praise her. Nor do we hear that He sent His disciples to give her enough money to take care of herself. She goes away, it seems, without hearing, or seeing, Christ’s blessing.
The almighty Father in heaven heard and saw, however. He sees and hears His Son as He speaks for us all. The writer of Hebrews tells us (Heb. 9:25): “Christ has entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” Your God is never blind to your need or deaf to your cries! He sent His Son to redeem you, to purchase you for Himself – and at the cost of His life. You can trust Him to take care of you always, for to Him you are not a disobedient sinner who is deserving of His condemnation and punishment. Christ bore our sins, and so they are not ours. In His Son God now looks upon you as His child. And when you in turn look upon Christ you will know that you can trust in God. Even better than you know (or knew) your child’s needs and are ready to take care of them, your Father in heaven knows your needs and is ready and able to take care of them. His provision will never run out, as the widow of Zarephath discovered.
Believe this! Show this! Whether it be in the amount you put in your offering envelope; or in the coats you bring for our coat drive; or in the food you contribute; or in contributions to our Mission of the Month, which this month is presents for needy children at Christmas – trust your good and loving God and be generous. Be generous as your God is generous. He is generous in forgiving your sins; so you, forgive those who sin against you. He is generous in providing for your daily needs; so you, help others who are in need. He is generous in providing you an eternal home in heaven through Christ. Eagerly look forward to that home, and share the joyous hope of it in Christ with others. All to the glory of God, who is good, whose steadfast love in Christ endures forever! Amen.