Mark 12:44

“For all they did cast in of their abundance;
but she of her want did cast in all that she had,
even all her living.”

~ Mark 12:44

Usually when we come to this text, we talk about the widow. She is worthy of admiration and emulation. No question. But, other people put money in the treasury that day also. Mark reports:

“And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much”
Mark 12:41

From this description, people of all classes were putting money in and some of them were rich, and many put considerable offerings in the treasury.

Christ commends the widow’s example, but He neither rebukes nor condemns the others. In other words, they were doing good by giving offerings into the treasury. Their gifts differed in size proportionally to their generosity and “many that were rich cast in much.” Everyone probably gave more than the “two mites” the widow gave.

All the contributors had one thing in common that distinguished them from this widow. Jesus said, “This poor widow hath cast more in, than all they . . . For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want” (Mark 12:43-44). All the people of all the different classes gave of their abundance. They were not all classified as rich, some were, but they gave of abundance. This means their offerings were not sacrifices. They weren’t wrong. They just weren’t sacrifices. The widow sacrificed.

Most of us are not the widow, we are the others. We might even be many that are rich. Imagine you are walking down a city street on a cold, windy evening. You round the corner and see an old woman shivering and trudging up the street. She has a thin tattered piece of cloth pulled about her shoulders. The wind is blowing loose strands of her hair across her face and she puts up no resistance. You are moved with compassion and become suddenly aware of the warm hands balled up in your coat pockets. You take off your coat and put it around the woman saying, “Here, Ma’am, take my coat.” She grasps it tight around her, says, “Thank you,” and goes on.

Though your heart is warm, a sudden blast of chill brings you back to reality of just how cold it is. You shiver and think. There are a few blocks to go to get to your car, which will warm up quickly and you will be nice and toasty to return to you warm house and another coat. There is also a clothing store at the corner, which is still open. You could go in and just get another coat. If it is really cold, most of us would probably just go buy another coat right there, but even if we chose to be thrifty and go home to our older coat, we could buy one if we wanted to.

Would it be wrong to give your coat in that circumstance? No, it would not be wrong in any way. Would it be good to do it? Yes, it would absolutely be a good thing to do. But the point is: It is not really a sacrifice. We might trade a few moments of inconvenience, but we really wouldn’t be doing without to give. Please don’t misunderstand. I am not being critical of this act, it would be the right thing to do.

The point in all this is to impact the way we think about giving. At least part of the point Jesus was making was that in God’s economy the bottom line is not the same as that in men’s accounting. Let us not be proud and think more highly of our giving than we ought to think. Let us also be ready to give when it has to come out of our want (2 Corinthians 8:2) and not just out of our abundance.

Giving and Living

Giving necessarily involves some sacrifice or it is not really giving in a biblical sense. David refused to offer to God that that cost him nothing. In David’s case, he would merely have been transferring and not giving. Giving means willingly taking something that rightly belongs to us and giving it to another. It comes at some cost to the giver. It was out of “deep poverty” that the Macedonian churches gave to support Paul in the mission work the Lord called him to (2 Corinthians 8:2).

Ironically, this type of giving tends to strengthen rather than weaken the giver. It may seem to us that the opposite would be true, but Solomon avows, “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth” (Proverbs 11:24). This is Scripture truth and practical reality. The greedy hand tries to cling tighter and tighter to what he has and cannot seem to find any room for giving to someone else, but in the end he has less.

The only real living is giving and that by sacrifice. But, let us apply the biblical test to the sacrifice. If the sacrifice harms us, we may be trying to play the martyr rather than giving in line with the life of Christ. Christ sacrificed and gave more than all, but rather than weakening Him, He was strengthened, “being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father” (Acts 2:33).