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Sacrificial Giving


Well again, welcome on these Family Worship Sundays. On these second Sundays we do things a little differently. Our kids sing, they lead us in all sorts of different ways, and the message is a little different too. It’s like your average kids message – with props and questions and call and response type stuff – but for all ages. So, let’s get started …

Let’s hear from a kid … what do you have in your hands there? What was just passed out to each and every person here in this sanctuary? Two pennies …

Each of you has two pennies. And as I was looking at them earlier, some of them are pretty and some of them are pretty ugly. But they’re each worth the same … in fact, if we all pool our money together, we might just be able to purchase one glorious Costco hot dog. But forget about that, let’s get to more important stuff …

Why do you have two pennies? Like, what might those pennies have to do with what Karlie just read? “A poor widow put in two very small copper coins”

That’s right. Our story today is about this very brief scene in the temple. The temple was where God’s people would go to worship together, similar to what a church is today. And Jesus was teaching in the temple one day and he looks up and witnesses this moment: “He saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury (in other words, their offering box) 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.

Two very small copper coins. Now, those pennies that you hold, they’re not exactly what that poor widow put in the offering box on that day long ago, but yet those pennies that you hold give you a pretty good idea of what she gave.

And Jesus is watching all this … he sees the rich people putting in their gifts and then sees the widow put in her two cents, and then Jesus says something that makes no sense at all.

“He says, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all the others.”

“She has put in more than all the others.”

Friends, I want you to turn to the person next to you and say, “That doesn’t make any sense.”

That’s right. At first glance, Jesus’s words here make no sense. Jesus did you see what the rich people put in? Did you see what that poor widow put in? It’s not even close!

Like, just about every kid here from preschool age on up can do the basic math here and tell you which of these two has more …

And even more, Jesus, c’mon now, consider what you can do with all of this monopoly money, I mean, money. Think about all the good you could do with it … Park Place and Boardwalk aside, you could buy a new church elevator, you could give more money to missionaries overseas, you could purchase more curriculum, you could get A/C in the sanctuary … Jesus, think about all you could do with this money! How could you possibly say that this woman, who gave a couple measly coins gave more?!

This woman gives two cents and what Jesus says makes no sense at all. Jesus says, “this woman gave more than all the others.”

And here’s why. All of this brings us to our big idea for our message today. And that is:

“Jesus measures our giving not by size but by sacrifice.”

Let’s say it again. I’ll say the first part, you say the last part … “

“Jesus measures our giving not by size but by sacrifice.”

Because notice what Jesus says next. He says:

“All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in all she had to live on.”

Yes, the rich people gave more in terms of size and amount, dollars and cents. There’s no debate there. It’s not even close. And yet, that’s not how Jesus measures our giving.

“Jesus measures our giving not by size but by sacrifice.”

And this poor widow, Jesus says, put in all she had to live on. And so, who sacrificed the most that day? Well, this widow did. And there’s no debate there. And it’s not even close.

Now, I’ll be honest here. This is a truth that can be both comforting and challenging. Depending on your season of life and where you find yourselves financially, this truth can be both comforting and challenging.

For example, let’s start with the comforting side of this truth. And here I want to speak directly to the kids and students in the room. It’s Family Worship Sunday, after all. Kids and students, you might think to yourself, “What do I possibly have to give? What difference could my giving make?” You look at your piggy bank or allowance, you see a couple coins here, a couple coins there, a couple dollars here, a couple dollars there. You might think you have little to give, little to offer.

But remember, “Jesus measures your giving not by size but by sacrifice.” The amount itself is not what’s most important.

There’s a middle schooler here at our church who gives a portion of the money that she makes from babysitting each month and it goes towards sponsoring an 8 year old girl in Uganda through World Vision. And friends, I believe the angels in heaven burst out in song every time that she does.

You see, even if it’s the two pennies that you are holding in your hands right now, kids, students, Jesus delights in your giving, he rejoices in your giving.

Or to the adults and families and widows here today who are living paycheck to paycheck, who are feeling the pinch, who are feeling the sting of the rising cost of groceries and gas and heating bills that are through the roof, who feel as though they can sacrifice no more, do you see how comforting today’s scripture is? Do you see what good news this is?

You may not be able to give as much as you want to in this season. And that’s okay, because:

“Jesus measures your giving not by size but by sacrifice.”

You see, even if it’s the two pennies that you are holding in your hands right now, adults, widows, families, Jesus delights in your giving, he rejoices in your giving.

And so give what you can and give from the heart.

That’s the comforting side of this truth, now let’s get to the more challenging side of this truth:

Now here, we’re about to get about as practical as we can get, and to do so, in honor of most children’s messages, it’s time for some props. It’s time for an object lesson.

You all, I am no financial expert, but when it comes to our finances, biblically and practically speaking, there are really only three things that we can do with our money, or I should probably say with the money that God has entrusted to us.

And that is, repeat after me. You can GIVE, SAVE, LIVE.

You can GIVE your money away, whether it be to the church or charities or neighbors in need.

You can SAVE your money for the future, whether it be for retirement or your kids’ college fund, or for unexpected expenses like a new transmission or I don’t know, golf ball sized hail that requires you get a new roof.

Or finally …

You can LIVE with your money right here, right now, whether it’s paying for necessities like gas and groceries, medical bills and a mortgage, but also other things, luxuries like sports and entertainment, toys or travel.

GIVE, SAVE and LIVE. (Parents, you may want to use these three buckets in your own homes, with your own kids, so that as money comes in, you’re teaching them to allocate in all three categories).

And here’s how I think most people today approach their giving and how the rich people at the temple that day approached their own giving.

First, we live. Here we spend money on the necessities while also spending money on luxuries.

And so often the things we spend in this category, yes, even the luxuries are very good things.

For example, a couple weeks ago I took my four year old son Noah skiing up at Maverick. (Anybody been skiing this year?) He was pretty hesitant to start, clinging to me the whole time, but by the end he was starting to gain a little confidence and have a little fun. Where on the first run he was saying to me, “Dad, don’t let go!” and by the last run he was saying “Dad, get off me!” I’ve never been so happy to have my son yell at me. ☺

We spend money in the LIVE category on necessities and luxuries, and so often we spend it on good things.

Then we SAVE money. That’s a good thing too. In fact, saving money is a wise thing to do, in fact, it’s a biblical thing to do as we wisely prepare for the future.

We LIVE first, SAVE second, both are good things. But then here’s what happens when we get to the GIVE category. Without thinking much about it, we simply give whatever is left.

And we may look at our giving and think that it’s a lot. We may think we are being quite generous. And yet, I think Jesus is challenging us to ask a deeper and more challenging question.

And that is, did our giving require any real sacrifice from us or not? Did our giving demand that we change the way we live in any meaningful way? It’s an uncomfortable question, yet a question I think Jesus invites us to ask.

This is what I think Jesus is getting at when he says, “All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth.” In other words, they gave what was comfortable, they gave what was unnoticeable, they gave in a way that didn’t require any sacrifice, that didn’t really have an impact on their everyday life.

For many of us today and for many people in the temple that day, our living affects our giving. How we live impacts how much we give. And so while because of their wealth their giving might have been great in size, it was nevertheless small in sacrifice.

And so, what do we do? How do we steward our money in a way that brings glory to God? If Jesus measures our giving not by size but by sacrifice, how do we prioritize and practice generous and sacrificial giving, in a way that embodies the sacrifice of this widow long ago?

Well, the solution is both incredibly simple and incredibly significant. You simply reverse the order. Instead of having how you live impact how you give, you allow how much you give to impact how you live.

And here we find the biblical model and order for stewardship. Give first, save second, live third. The bible often uses the language of “firstfruits” to describe our giving, since in Old Testament days the Israelites were called to give their “first produce,” the first and best of their harvest back to the Lord. The larger principle at work here for us today is that giving is meant to be the first financial commitment we make.

Which still leaves us with this question? Okay, so how much do you give? Like, do we simply give two pennies like this widow did long ago? Well, again, I’ll ask, would that require any real sacrifice from you or not?

Instead, I’d encourage you to think of it this way on, let’s say, a monthly basis. Start with zero and increase your number until you think to yourself, “Oh, I don’t know about that!”

Turn to the person next to you and say, “Oh, I don’t know about that!”

When you reach a number that makes you say that, well guess what, you’re probably within range.

Because when you say that, Jesus has you right where he wants you. Because not only does more money here, mean less money there, which yes, will require greater sacrifice on your part, it’ll do something of far greater importance. It’ll require you to have more faith.

Because when you look at your finances, “Oh, (say it with me now) I don’t know about that!” that is a stepping out in faith thing to say. You look at your finances and say, “Lord, I’m stepping out on a limb here. Lord, I’m trusting you to provide.” When you say that, Jesus has you right where he wants you, reaching out to him in faith.

You know, they say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. A similar thing is true with us and Jesus for he knows that the way to our heart is through our money. And that when we trust him with our money, when we are trusting him to provide, when we are willing to sacrifice on his behalf, we are giving him our hearts.

There’s a key detail about the poor person in this story who gives the two copper coins. She’s a widow. In that culture, men were the primary breadwinners and this woman has no husband to lean on. She’s not putting in her last two copper coins in the basket with the promise of a husband coming home later that day with a paycheck.

And so this woman, through her sacrificial giving, is putting her faith in Christ and trusting that God will provide. That, my friends, is amazing faith.

Friends, are we giving to the point that it requires real sacrifice on our part, and maybe more importantly, that it increases our faith in Christ too?

May we give generously, save wisely, and live appropriately, for the glory of God and the good of his people. Because when we do, we become living advertisements to the world around us about how good our God is and that there is nothing that this world can offer us that’s as good as him.

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