Sermon Text: Mark 12:41-44
Pastor Daniel Schmidt
For the past two weeks our stewardship emphasis in worship has encouraged you and me to have open hearts, as we return to the Lord our “first-fruits” gifts and to have open minds, as we prayerfully consider a first-fruit gift in proportion to the blessings the Lord has showered upon us. Today, God’s Word encourages you and me to have open hands as we return to our Lord a SACRIFICIAL, proportionate, first-fruits gift. And, my dear Christian friends, the Lord is watching! Today’s Gospel Lesson reminds you and me that THE LORD IS WATCHING YOUR STEWARDSHIP.
In the Gospel Lesson for today, we read about a crowd of people who were “putting their money into the temple treasury.” They were bringing their offerings. And we are told, “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd.” The original tells us that Jesus was doing much more than just “people watching.” Rather, Jesus was watching intentionally, we might say that Jesus was “studying the crowd” as they brought their offerings to the temple.
What did Jesus see has he watched the stewardship of the crowd that day? Perhaps he saw people who were bringing their offering because they felt they HAD to, since God had commanded his people to return to him 10% of their blessings.
Perhaps he saw people who didn’t give much thought to the offering they were bringing, they simply were going through the motions because this is what they always did.
As Jesus sat watching the stewardship of the people we are told that he saw “many rich people [who] threw in large amounts.” Again, the original helps to paint the picture that these folks didn’t simply bring their gift, but that they made a show of it. They wanted to make sure that everyone else saw the large gifts they were offering.
In sharp contrast to these people, we are told that “a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.” What did Jesus see as he watched the stewardship of this poor widow? He tells his disciples, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.” This poor widow brought a sacrificial offering to the temple that day.
The Lord is watching your stewardship! What does he see as he watches you and me? Does the Lord see you and me giving an offering because we feel we HAVE to? After all, the bulletin tells me this it is the time in the service when the offering is gathered and I don’t want the person sitting next to me to think that I don’t give anything to church!
Does the Lord see you and me simply going through the motions as the plate is passed. “There’s an envelope dated for today in my box of offering envelopes, so I better throw something into it and put it in the plate.”
Does the Lord ever see pride in your heart and mind and hear us as we think to ourselves, “If only everyone here knew just how big the check is in this envelope!”
You and I will confess that we have, at times, sinned in different ways as we bring our offering to the Lord’s temple. As we repent of this sin, we do well to remember when this event before us took place. This is Tuesday of Holy Week. In just a few days, the loving Savior would willingly go to the cross, where he would offer himself as THE sacrifice for this sin and for all of your sins and mine. God the Father punished his one and only Son in your place and mine; and before he died, Jesus cried out “It is finished!” Because of Jesus, you and I enjoy the forgiveness of all of our sins, including those times we have failed to offer him a joyful and sacrificial gift.
In response to the great love of our Savior-God that won your forgiveness and mine, that made you and me sons and daughters of our Father in heaven, what does it mean for you and me to offer a sacrificial gift back to our Lord? What might that look like in your life and mine? Perhaps it means not buying that new car you have had your eye on for some time now. Maybe it means not buying myself the latest and greatest smart-phone. Maybe it means not taking the family trip this year.
Instead, with a joyful heart, you and I will take the amount of money that we would have spent on those things, and you and I will return it as a thank offering the Lord. As the Apostle Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians, “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”
Why this stewardship emphasis over the past three weeks in worship? Why are we as a congregation participating in our Wisconsin Synod’s “10 for 10” emphasis? It is NOT simply to increase offerings to support our church’s budget or our Synod. Rather, this is a time for you and me to prayerfully consider our sacrificial, proportionate, first-fruit thank-offerings to the Lord. In just a few weeks, the members of our congregation will receive a mailing from our Stewardship Board. The purpose of this mailing is to encourage you and me to prayerfully consider our commitment to the Lord during the coming year. Then, on the first Sunday in December, you and I will bring our offerings and our commitments forward, and place them before our Lord. Look for more information and encouragement about this opportunity in the upcoming November newsletter.
Dear fellow managers of all the blessings our gracious God pours upon us: Remember that THE LORD IS WATCHING YOUR STEWARDSHIP! As he watches, may he see you and me joyfully giving him all thanks and praise because you and I “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.” May your stewardship and mine, may everything in your life and mine, clearly show that you and I love and trust in God above all things. To him be the glory, now and forever! Amen.