Mark 12:41-44

Sermon preached on January 27, 2013 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

There's an old saying that says,

"The more you give the more you get."

There's also an old story that I heard long ago. A lay preacher was asked to fill in one Sunday in a country church and they told him that whatever the offering was, they would give him as payment. On the Sunday morning he was to preach he decided to take his young son with him. As they were in the car driving to the church, the father handed his son a five dollar bill and told him to put it in the offering. So he went and preached and at the end of the service someone handed him an envelope with the money from the offering. As they were driving home he handed it to his son and told him to open it. When the young boy opened the envelope they found that it contained just $5.00. The son could see that the father was disappointed. There was a few moments of silence and then the son said,

"Well, dad. If we had given more we would have got more."

The father replied,

"That's right, son."

Giving can appear to be complicated. I've long found parts of the incident before us puzzling. I've wondered why the woman put everything she had in. She only had a little bit of money. Wouldn't it have been better to keep it and buy at least one more meal with it? Or what about keeping one? She had two copper coins. Why didn't she keep at least one for herself to buy some food?

If I didn't know this story and this woman had come to me for advice on what to do with her last two coins—I'm pretty sure I would have told her to use it to buy some food instead of putting it in the offering. If I didn't know what Jesus said about her I might even think that she was somewhat irresponsible to give both these two copper coins. By giving all that she had to live on she would probably be making herself a burden to her family and friends, and perhaps the church itself.

But Jesus didn't criticize her. He commended her. He praised her. In fact, for her act of giving Jesus put her down in history. She's just like the woman who poured very expensive perfume over Jesus' head when he was reclining at the table in Simon the Leper's house in Bethany. When Jesus' disciples saw it, they were indignant because they thought the perfume should have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor. And wouldn't you be right there with them? I know we'd hate to admit it, but we'd be thinking just like the disciples,

"What a waste!"

But Jesus said to them, (Matthew 26:10–13)

"Why are you bothering this woman?
She has done a beautiful thing to me.
The poor you will always have with you,
but you will not always have me.
When she poured this perfume on my body,
she did it to prepare me for burial.
I tell you the truth,
wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world,
what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."

It's the same with the widow in this story. Her act will be spoken about for all of history. Yet it's an act I suspect many Christians would advise against. It shows how out of touch we are with some of the fundamental applications of the truth of the gospel and how we need to change our attitudes. This woman teaches us many valuable lessons.

The first great lesson we see here is that

you can trust God to take care of you.

This widow only had two small copper coins to her name. Yet she did not hesitate to give them to the Lord. She knew that God would take care of her.

Do you worry about money? Do you ever find yourself worrying about your future, how things are going to turn out for you? We do, don't we? Yet in Matthew 6 Jesus told us not to. He told us that no man can serve two Masters. He said, (verses 24–34)

"You cannot serve both God and Money.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink;
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more important than food,
and the body more important than clothes?
Look at the birds of the air;
they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not much more valuable than they?
Who of you by worrying
can add a single hour to his life?
And why do you worry about clothes?
See how the lilies of the field grow.
They do not labor or spin.
Yet I tell you that not even Solomon
in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field,
which is here today and tomorrow
is thrown into the fire,
will he not much more clothe you,
O you of little faith?
So do not worry, saying,
'What shall we eat?' or
'What shall we drink?'
or 'What shall we wear?'
For the pagans run after all these things,
and your heavenly Father
knows that you need them.
But seek first his kingdom
and his righteousness, and all these things
will be given to you as well.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own."

This woman knew that truth. She applied it to her life and she was seeking God's kingdom above all else. She knew the truth of what Jesus said in Matthew 10 where He told people that the very hairs of our head are all numbered. He told us that not even a sparrow can fall to the ground apart from the will of God the Father and that we are much more valuable than the sparrows. He said, (Matthew 10:38–39)

"Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life
for my sake will find it."

We don't have to be overly concerned with money. Ecclesiastes 11:1 says,

"Cast your bread upon the waters,
for after many days you will find it again."

Jesus also told us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, not on earth. (Matthew 6:19-20) That's much more important for us to do—yet we often do the opposite.

God owns everything and He can supply all of our needs. (Jeremiah 27:5) In 2 Corinthians 9:8–11 the Holy Spirit told the Corinthians,

"And God is able to make
all grace abound to you,
so that in all things at all times,
having all that you need,
you will abound in every good work.
As it is written:
'He has scattered abroad
his gifts to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.'
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."

You can trust God to take care of you. God often told His people that He is the protector of widows. We saw this in our Call to Worship this morning. Psalm 68:4–6 says,

"Sing to God, sing praise to his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds—
his name is the LORD—and rejoice before him.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads forth the prisoners with singing;"

Deuteronomy 10:18 says of God,

"He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow,
and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing."

You can trust the Lord. Proverbs 19:17 says,

"He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD,
and he will reward him for what he has done."

God will and does take care of His people.

But this does not mean that Christians have never gone hungry or been in need.

Proverbs 10:3 says,

"The LORD does not let
the righteous go hungry…"

But we must remember that that's a proverb—it's a saying that is generally true. But there are exceptions to it. It is not a covenantal promise to each and every Christian. We should not take everything in Proverbs as being universal truths. There are some universal truths there, like, (Proverbs 9:10)

"The fear of the Lord
is the beginning of wisdom."

But other things are proverbs. They are not absolute promises that apply to every Christian. Sometimes Christians go hungry. In 2 Corinthians 11:27 the apostle Paul wrote about some of his experiences in the Christian ministry. He said,

"I have labored and toiled
and have often gone without sleep;
I have known hunger and thirst
and have often gone without food;
I have been cold and naked."

In Acts 6 we see that widows in the early church were impoverished and needed to be taken care of. For a time some of the Grecian widows were neglected by the church. During that time there is little doubt that some of them went hungry. Hebrews 11 tells us that some of the Old Testament saints were,

"They went about in sheepskins and goatskins,
destitute, persecuted and mistreated"

They were destitute—poor and needy. They were often hungry.

In Habakkuk we read Judah had been invaded by the Babylonians because of their sin. Yet there were still righteous people in the land and they suffered along with the wicked. In Habakkuk 3:17–18 the prophet wrote,

"Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior."

He was in want of food. They had nothing to eat.

Or read Jeremiah's complaint in Lamentations 3. He said, (verses 1-3)

"I am the man who has seen affliction
by the rod of his wrath.
He has driven me away and made me walk
in darkness rather than light;
indeed, he has turned his hand against
me again and again, all day long."

Later in Lamentations (5:10) he said,

"Our skin is hot as an oven,
feverish from hunger."

In Jeremiah 38 we read about Jeremiah being thrown into a muddy cistern. At the bottom of the cistern Jeremiah sank down into the mud. When Ebed-Melech the Cushite heard about it, he went to the king and pleaded for Jeremiah's life. He said, (Jeremiah 38:9)

"They have thrown him into a cistern,
where he will starve to death
when there is no longer any bread in the city."

God's people often experience hunger. But the primary example is that of Jesus Himself. In Matthew 4 we read that after fasting for 40 days,

"He was hungry."

That's when the devil came and tempted Him to turn the stones into bread.

The righteous can be hungry. But the point is that God will take care of us. We don't have to worry about it. Jesus' temptation shows us that. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He will never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) He always takes care of His people.

But this does not preclude, and should not preclude Christians from making responsible financial plans.

I know that none of you are thinking,

"Well, if God is going to take care of His people, why are we paying our minister a salary?"

George Muller was a Christian pastor and many people find him to be a great inspiration about the way a Christian should live. In some ways that's true. He was born in Prussia in the early 1800's and moved to England to minister there. He became pastor of Ebenezer Chapel, Teignmouth, Devonshire. He got married. But not long after his marriage he began to have conscientious scruples about receiving a regular salary. So he told his church not to pay him. He said that he would trust God to take care of him. He decided that he wouldn't tell his needs to anyone but God.

At times there were reports that they were starving. But though at times their faith was tried, they survived. Yet, having said that, as I read parts of his biography it seems that, for a time, not getting a regular salary was very much of a distraction for him. It seems that rather than being free from concern about where his next meal would come from, it became his focus. It took away from his work.

Should minister's just go out on faith like that?

Last November I got a letter asking churches to contribute to the PCA's Widow's fund Christmas Offering. They said that many widows would be hard pressed without help from the fund. It said,

"We are ministering monthly to elderly widows who have outlived their retirement savings and are no longer able to afford the basic necessities of life on their own."

There is also information on the PCA web site about Minister's Call Package. They encourage churches to follow certain salary guidelines. Part of it says,

"We understand there are circumstances where a man may feel called by God to serve a church that is unable to provide elements of compensation customary for similar positions. It is not our intention to pass judgment on such circumstances. We would, however, strongly assert that typically every effort should be made to adequately compensate a minister of the Gospel for his work."

Why do they do that? It's because the Bible recommends that. 1 Timothy 5:17,18 (ESV) says,

"Let the elders who rule well
be considered worthy of double honor,
especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.
For the Scripture says, 'You shall not muzzle an ox
when it treads out the grain,' and,
'The laborer deserves his wages.'"

So Jesus' words don't mean that we shouldn't make sound financial plans. But there are a few more lessons we are taught here.

The second great lesson this shows us is

how devoted you are to be to God.

This poor widow was commended by Jesus. Robert H. Stein writes, (Mark BECNT, p. 580)

"The purpose of the present account is… to provide a model of Christian discipleship …"

William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark (NICNT; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 443.

"What the Twelve had failed to appreciate was the total commitment to God that the widow's gift represented."

William L. Lane, (Mark, NICNT, p. 443)

"The woman sacrifices what is necessary, all she had. It was this that the disciples needed to understand, for the call to the gospel is a call for absolute surrender to God and total trust in him."

Do you have the same kind of heart that this widow did? Do you trust God like you should? Are you committed to His kingdom like this widow? If you aren't—you need to change. You've got your priorities wrong. Her giving is a rebuke to you.

The third thing we see from our text is that

Jesus greatly values your service to Him, even if it seems insignificant in the eyes of the world.

Even the little things you do for Jesus are of great value in His eyes. The service that many of us give to Jesus may look insignificant in the eyes of the world, but God greatly values it. John Calvin writes,

"for the poor who appear not to have the power of doing good, are encouraged by our Lord not to hesitate to express their affection cheerfully out of their slender means; for if they consecrate themselves, their offering, which appears to be mean and worthless, will not be less valuable than if they had presented all the treasures of Cræsus."

Robert H. Stein adds, (Mark, BECNT; p. 580)

"For the poor of Mark's church, and for the humble and poor through the centuries, our passage reveals that God looks upon their meager offerings of love with great delight and pleasure. No gift to God is insignificant when given in love and devotion."

As Jesus Himself said in Matthew 10:42,

"And if anyone gives even a cup
of cold water to one of these little ones
because he is my disciple,
I tell you the truth,
he will certainly not lose his reward."

Fourthly, this passage shows us that if you ever find yourself in very severe financial times and you only have very little left, you might be tempted to think—I don't have any room to give to God—I need everything for myself—resist that temptation.

If you only have very little to give, that means you have something to give and the little that you have is precious in God's sight.

Who knows what God will do with your gift? James R. Edwards writes, (Mark PNTC; p. 382)

"No gift, whether of money, time, or talent, is too insignificant to give, if it is given to God. And what is truly given to God, regardless how small and insignificant, is transformed into a pearl of great price."

In 1 Kings 17 we saw what God did for the widow of Zarephath of Sidon when she helped Elijah. She only had a little oil and flour and was gathering sticks to make a fire for their last meal before they died. Elijah asked her for a little water. When she was going to get it for him he asked her for a piece of bread. She hesitated and told him she didn't have any to spare, that she was preparing her last meal. Elijah told her to make some bread for him from it first. He added,

"The jar of flour will not be used up
and the jug of oil will not run dry
until the day the LORD gives rain on the land."

And so it was. The widow and her son lived.

In John 6 great crowds flocked to Jesus. Jesus said to Philip, (verse 5)

"Where shall we buy bread
for these people to eat?"

Philip answered him and said that eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite. Then Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up and said,

"Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish,
but how far will they go among so many?"

Hah! Jesus then fed the 5000 and after all were fed there were 12 baskets of bread left over.

When you have almost nothing and you may think that what you have is not worth giving to Him. How wrong you are. Seek first God's kingdom.

You're an important part of it. There's a story told about a group of VIP's being shown around the NASA Space Center in the 60's as America was getting ready to land a man on the moon. As they were being shown around they were asking various engineer's what they did. At one point they made a mistake and asked a cleaning lady what her job was. She replied,

"I'm helping put a man on the moon!"

She was right. She had an important job. Even a little bit of dust in the wrong spot could ruin everything.

Lastly, for those who are not Christians, what does this widow's gift show you? Two things.

First, it shows you how grateful the widow was to God.

She had almost nothing, yet she did not hesitate to give everything she had to God. Compare this to your life. God has given you so much, yet how grateful are you to God? What do you give back to Him? This widow's actions are a great rebuke to you. They call you to wake up and start serving Jesus, who has given you everything you have.


it shows you that God loves the insignificant people of the world.

Perhaps you're thinking that God would never be interested in you because you're just not that important, that you don't have that much to contribute. No. God's gift of salvation is for people like this widow. Don't let thoughts of insignificance keep you from going to Jesus. He loves people like you. Go to Him today.