“A Meagre Offering”
The story of the woman and her last few coins sticks out for me as a great story. Jesus is sitting around the temple teaching and warning the Pharisees about how they treat people in front of whoever is listening.
As he’s sitting there he watches all the people come into the temple to make their offerings.
This part of the temple is a large room solely used for the collection of money. Along one side is a series of metal receptacles, shaped like funnels used to collect offerings. Jesus watches as wealthy people come in and drop bags full of coins into these metal funnels, imagine the noise they make as these coins tumble, slide and rattle down. Imagine the look on these rich people’s faces as the coins fall down. How proud they must look as people turn to see who is making so much noise with all their money.
It’s a show. The richer you are, the more coins you drop in, the more people look at you and know how rich you are.
Jesus has just told people to watch out for people who seek riches. Watch out for people who seek attention for themselves and fine seats at fancy parties and in synagogues. Watch out because they don’t care who gets forgotten and used on their way to the parties as they devour the houses of widows and say long prayers to make themselves look important.
In a way, this last statement makes me think of the old tele-evangelists who called for people to send in money to their great ministries while padding their own bank accounts and hanging out with popular people of the day.
Jesus said in his warning that those people will “receive the greater condemnation.” Those tele-evangelists, many were caught and spent time in prison. And who knows where they are now or is in store for them yet.
Then comes in a poor widow. Not unlike what Jesus has just described. She’s probably trying to be as unnoticeable as possible, sticking to the side of the temple, not drawing any attention to herself. And she drops two copper coins into the funnel. Actually, I suspect she probably tried to slide them down the side as quietly as possible. She wouldn’t want anyone to hear a sound so they wouldn’t look at her and her poverty.
Now we are told these two coins were probably worth about a penny. For us today, it would amount to maybe a couple dollars. And if that’s all you have, you can still buy a decent meal if you went to the right place. Just like she could have used that money to buy herself a meal, or something nice for herself.
But instead, she faithfully brought it into the temple and offered it to God.
Imagine how humiliated she would feel if she knew Jesus was pointing her out to the disciples. Yet Jesus sees her incredible faith in the midst of this pageantry and showing off.
The others, they are giving out of their abundance. There is no sacrifice in their offering. They are bringing bags of money out of houses full of riches. They won’t notice this money is even missing, because they have lots.
This woman though, she will notice. When she’s walking through the market on her way home, hungry, she’ll notice she doesn’t have a couple dollars to buy something to eat.
Her offering is a sacrifice.
As usual we can learn from the women of the Bible, and this woman is no exception. She causes us to think about just how much we give to God, and the reason why.
But it goes beyond the church. She should be causing us to think of our own offerings to God in all aspects of her life. As I mentioned, she isn’t going to forget this offering when she goes home. She gave all she had left. Money is scarce for her as a widow. And she knows it every moment of every day. As she walks the streets and sees what that money could have bought.
Yet she still offered it to God.
This morning we took time to remember the sacrifices of men and women who have fought for freedom. Think of what they gave. Many gave of their lives. Many others gave up their youth as they struggled with what they saw in the battles of war for many years to follow. Families gave up loved ones. Parents gave up children.
They offered themselves to their nation… to the world… to fight against a terrible evil. They also fulfilled what they deemed to be call from God to serve and protect. We don’t hear much of such reasons for joining the military anymore. But for many of these brave men and women, it was as much as serving God as it was the nation.
They gave all they had.
What more can you offer than putting your life on the line for what you believe is right? What more can you offer than when, at the end of the day, you look in your pocket at your last two dollars and give it away?
Serving God is not about you. Serving God is about serving others. Last week I talked about the two great commandments: “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And love your neighbour as yourself.”
Give it all to God.
We may think what we have to offer is insignificant, meaningless. What can be done with two lousy bucks? I’m not very good at anything, how can something I do be useful?
I mentioned I like this particular scripture reading. It holds a personal connection to some friends of mine.
Three years ago, there were a number of people at AST who were interested in getting together mid-week to take a break from studying. We were all beginner musicians who thought it might be fun to get together and play music.
So that’s what we did. We would gather on Wednesday mornings in the chapel and bring out some Christian praise music to learn together. As we grew more comfortable with each other, we actually had a request to go play at a couple churches for youth events.
At the same time, I was called last minute to preach in Kentville one Sunday. This Sunday. This same text of the woman and her two coins.
As I thought about the text, two things happened. First was I didn’t remember any music in particular which spoke about this woman. And as I laid in bed trying to get our then seven month old son to go down for his nap, a song came to me.
The second thing was how am I connected to this woman? I thought about this group of people I was gathering with each week. Every one of us were self taught, we knew almost enough to get through basic songs. For each and every one of us, this mid-week gathering was about connecting and offering gifts to God.
It was then I dubbed us “Two Cents”. The reason? We didn’t have much, but we gave it all. And from there we grew and performed at churches and halls around the Maritimes. We were mentioned in the local Anglican journal twice.
We gave our meagre musical abilities to God, and He used it far beyond anything we ever dreamed.
If you have something in your life that you love, something you are passionate about… whether it be music, reading, writing, serving, helping, teaching, learning, cooking, sewing, anything… God can use it.
When we started, did we think we were good enough to perform live? Absolutely not. In the end, we were turning away requests because we didn’t have enough time, since we were also trying to graduate and had schoolwork to do.
God can use it. Whatever you have, God can use it.
I know, I’ve seen it happen.