The Message in Your Giving
If you were to travel to any major port anywhere in the world, and if you were to look out at the big ships, whether they’re cargo ships or any kind of big ship, you’ll see on the side of that ship a line. That line shows the maximum load that ship can carry and still be safe to go out to sea. That line has a specific name. The line that you see on the side of those ships to see how much they can carry – that line is called the Plimsoll line. It’s named after a person who insisted that that line be drawn because it became a matter of life and death.
In 1873 Great Britain saw four hundred and eleven ships sink at sea – not because they were attacked by enemies; not because of storms or anything like that. They sank because these ships were overloaded. And the owners of the ships, the shipping companies knew that these ships were being overloaded. The truth is the owners just didn’t care, because when they put that ship at sea, and when they loaded it down at port, if they loaded more stuff on it, they could get more on it, they saved money by overloading the ships. Then if something happened and the ship sank at sea, the owner of the ship really wasn’t concerned because he had insurance that would cover his cost, and so he was okay.
So the ship owners didn’t care that their ships were overloaded, but the sailors cared, and their families cared, because sailors were losing their lives on these overloaded ships. Sadly, the parliament of England sided with the ship owners rather than with the sailors. They made it a crime, if you were a sailor on board one of these ships that you knew was overloaded, and you said, “I’m not going to go out at sea on this ship,” you would be put into prison for leaving that ship. So the sailors stayed on, even knowing that they were in dangerous situations.
Those ships became known as coffin ships because so many sailors lost their lives.
There was a man in England named Samuel Plimsoll, and he became concerned about the danger that these sailors were in. He ran for parliament based on one simple promise. He said, “We’re going to put a line on ever ship that shows when that ship has had all it can take when it’s carrying as heavy a load as it can, and we’re not going to allow ships to go out to see if they’re going down into the water below that in – or if the water gets above that line.”
He won and he became a member of parliament, and he changed it. He was known as the friend of sailors because he saved so many sailors’ lives simply with a line that says this much and no more.
There are a lot of Christians who wind up spiritual shipwrecks because we’re trying to carry too much stuff with us through life. And we’ve drawn the line, and we’ve said, “I’ve got to have this much stuff,” and we’ve drawn that line so high that we’re carrying more stuff than God wants us to carry.
God has not designed you to be someone who receives and receives and receives and receives. God has designed you, and God has called you as a believer in Jesus Christ to be someone who says, “I will give; I will live my life open-handed, and I will draw a line in my life to say, hey, this is enough, but above that line I want to be open-handed in giving to the Lord.”
That’s what we’re going to talk about today as we look in the Word of God. We’re going to see at the beginning of our passage some people who were absolutely nothing but takers. They were the religious people of the day, and they knew all kinds of things about God’s Word, but they just loved to take in every regard. Then we’re going to camp out and look at the story of one woman who had virtually nothing, but she gave, and Jesus blessed her for it.
I want you to stand with me as we read God’s Word together, beginning in verse 45 of Luke, chapter 20. Listen to what the Bible says.
45 And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes”
those were the religious leaders, the ones who copied the Word of God meticulously and knew the Bible backwards and forwards – the Old Testament Scriptures. They understood it so well.
“Beware,” Jesus says,” of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 47 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
He said to beware of these guys because they’re takers. They take everything they can take. They take attention; they take honor; they take from widows’ houses; they take materially from people who are in need. They even, when they’re praying they’re taking. They’re taking attention and making a pretense of their prayers. Jesus says they will receive the greater condemnation.
Then look in verse 1 of chapter 21:
Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins 3 And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 4 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
These are the words of Jesus. Join with me as we pray.
Lord God, I pray that today You would convict our hearts about where we draw the line in our lives – where we’re willing to say, “Lord, You’ve provided me all I need, and enough” – where we draw that line so that we can give to You and give in Your Name above that line. Lord, I pray that You would bless us today. Help us to hear Your voice speaking through Your Word. For we pray these things in Jesus’ precious Name.
Brothers and Sisters, if you agree with that prayer will you say amen? Amen. You may be seated.
WHAT JESUS SAW
I want us to focus on the first four verses of Luke, chapter 21, and I want you to think about how this woman gave and what Jesus experienced as she gave.
Now, remember, Jesus is in the last week of His life on earth. Before the week is over, He’s going to be crucified on a cross outside of Jerusalem. Right now, He’s in the city of Jerusalem. He’s in the vicinity of the temple and He’s just watching what’s happening and He’s explaining things to His disciples as they see the different things that they see.
The first thing I want you to see in this text as we look at the passage: Think with me about what Jesus saw. What Jesus saw. Look in verses 1 and 2 of the text. The Bible says Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box. So He’s there in the temple, probably in the area of the temple that was called the Court of the Women. It was called the Court of the Women because it was as far as the women, even the women of Israel could go into the temple. They came to the Court of the Women and they couldn’t get any closer to the Holy of Holies. That was the last place the women could go. So there are women and men there, but it was called the Court of the Women.
In the Court of the Women there were thirteen different offering receptacles. Seven of them were labeled with specific areas of giving that people gave to support the temple and its work. So seven of them were labeled, but then six of them just said Freewill Offerings, and they went to support whatever was needed in taking care of God’s work in the temple. These receptacles were actually called trumpets because they sort of looked like a trumpet. They had a small opening where you would put in your money and then it got wider like a trumpet’s bell at the end. And they were made out of something that – either stone, or perhaps, I’m assuming, metal – so that when you threw in the coin, you could hear the coin go into the trumpet.
And people are coming by. Rich people are coming by. You can tell they’re wealthy people. You can tell by their hairstyles; you can tell by their clothes; and you can tell by the gifts that they’re bringing. And they’re coming in and they’re bringing their gifts and putting them into the offering boxes – putting them into the treasure. And as they throw them into those trumpets you can hear the coins rattle and make noise as they’re putting in those gifts.
And, buy the way, in this text Jesus doesn’t say anything to condemn those who were wealthy and who were giving big gifts. That’s not the point of this text. Instead, the point of this text is this: There was one woman and she came, as well, that day to the temple. And as she came, she put in two little coins, and Jesus saw it.
Have you ever just watched people? Have you ever been, maybe, to the mall? Gone to the mall and just watched people? A lot of times when I go to the mall I wind up doing people-watching. Because we get to the mall, and we walk around for a little while and we look in some different places. Then Michele goes into the store and there’s nothing for me in that store. And I’ll ask the question, “Is there a place for me to sit down in here?” And she’ll say, “No, I don’t think so.” So I’ll go and I’ll find a place in the mall to sit down.
Guys, if you’ve ever done this – nod your head like this if you’ve ever done this. Usually I’ll sit down on one of the benches in the mall, and I’ll look across and there’s a guy at least thirty years older than I am, and he’s sitting there as well. One day I was sitting there, and I looked across at this older guy, and he looked at me and he said, “This is what we do.”
So anyway, you’re looking at people going back and forth, and that’s just sort of what’s happening with Jesus that day in the temple. He and His disciples are watching people coming and going. They’re seeing all the wealthy people come into the temple and they’re giving these big gifts. Then they see this woman and you can tell she’s poor. You can tell she’s a widow because she’s all by herself. You can see from her face, the sunken cheeks, that maybe she doesn’t eat as many meals as she needs to eat. You can see from her clothing that she doesn’t have a change of clothes; she wears the same clothes day after day. And she comes and puts in, the Bible says, two small copper coins.
Now, those coins – the Greek word for the coin is the word lepta. The word lepta literally means a shaving or a husk. It’s almost a transparent coin. It’s a coin that was worth one eighth of a penny. Think about that: Two of them – that means a quarter of a penny. A quarter of a penny. I thought about doing an experiment this morning and putting a penny on the sidewalk of the church campus somewhere, and just checking to see how many of us if we’d walk past that penny would stop and stoop and pick up the penny. But I’ll just ask you: How many of you, if you see a penny on the ground, you’d reach down and pick it up and put it in your pocket. Raise your hands if you’d do that. (Sir, I see your hand.)
Some of us will do that, but sometimes I’ll see a penny on the sidewalk and I’ll think, “That penny’s dirty. I don’t want to stop. I don’t want to put it in my pocket. And what am I going to do with it anyway?”
This coin, these coins that she placed were worth, each of them, an eighth of a penny. They barely made a sound when she threw them into that receptacle. Jesus saw.
Here’s what I want you to remember: Jesus sees when you give. He’s paying attention. He knows your circumstance; He knows everything about you; He knows what you’re able to give; He knows what you’re able not to give. He knows, and He sees. He pays attention to our giving.
So we see what Jesus saw.
But the next thing that I want you to see – think with me about what Jesus said. What Jesus said.
WHAT JESUS SAID
Now look in verse 3 of the text. The Bible says, “And Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.” Stop right there. That’s what He said to His disciples. He said, “This poor widow has put in more than all of them.” Now for me, this is a very, very familiar story. It’s a story that I’ve heard all my life. And so there’s no real surprise for me in what happens in this story.
I can remember when I was kid in Sunday school growing up, this was one of the stories that we would act out. When I was in the four and five-year-old Sunday school class, and Mrs. Crutchfield was our teacher, she would divide us up sometimes and I can remember several times we would act out this story. There’d be some of the boys and girls, and their role was to play the part of the wealthy people. We had our hands out like this, like we had all kinds of gifts. And we would walk past, and we would put our money in the receptacle, just, you know, imaginary, but we would put our money in the receptacle.
Then there would be one little girl who was playing the part of the poor widow. She would come in usually stooped over. And she would walk in, and usually she would have two little pennies. And she would put those two pennies into the receptacle. And then there was one boy who would play the part of Jesus, and he would speak these words: She has given more than all of them today.
It’s a familiar story, but those words of Jesus are still surprising words to me. He said, “Truly I tell you.” Look again in verse 3: “Truly I tell you.” This isn’t a guess; this isn’t speculation. He says, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.” Literally, more than all of them put together.
Wait a second! Two little coins, worth a quarter of a penny when you add them together? And she’s put in more than all of them? That’s what Jesus said. That was His assessment of her giving. And here’s what I want you to see: It doesn’t matter what anybody else says about your giving; it matters what Jesus says about your giving. If this woman had been concerned about how much she had left when she gave, she wouldn’t have given anything because she had nothing left after she gave. If she had been concerned about what other people were giving that day, she wouldn’t have given anything because what were her two little coins – just two little shavings of coins – what was that going to make a difference compared to all their gifts? She wouldn’t have given anything if she’d thought about what they were giving. If she had thought about what she had to give, she wouldn’t have given anything. It was barely worth anything. But she was concerned about what the Lord knew, what the Lord saw, and, therefore, she gave.
Brothers and sisters, when we are more concerned about what the Lord sees and what the Lord says than anything else, we’ll be faithful in our giving.
We see what the Lord saw; we see what the Lord said.
WHAT JESUS KNEW
Thirdly I want you to see what Jesus knew. What did Jesus know? Look in verse 4 of the text. Here’s what Jesus says as He continues on. He reveals His knowledge as the Son of God. He knew something about this woman that no one else around there knew just watching. Here’s what He says: “For they all,” all the wealthy people, “contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
What did Jesus know? He knew that when she gave those two little coins that seemed so insignificant, that represented all she had. Here’s what Jesus knows: Our giving is not measured by the amount we give; it’s measured by what’s left after we give. She gave more than everyone else because when she gave, there was nothing left.
Based on what we’ve seen in this text today, I want you to think with me about some things that Jesus knows about your giving. Thinks that Jesus knows about our giving.
First of all, Jesus knows that giving begins in our hearts. Giving begins in our hearts. Giving doesn’t begin with coercion or guilt, or even the need that we’re giving to. Giving begins in our hearts.
I want you to look in your Bibles if you’ll take just a moment, and look back in the book of Exodus. Exodus, chapter 35, verse 21 – it describes what happened when the children of Israel were giving for the tabernacle. They were giving so that the tabernacle could be built. The Bible says this in verse 21 of Exodus, chapter 35; it says, “And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit moved him and brought the Lord’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting and for all its service and for the holy garments.” So what I want you to focus on here is that they gave according to what their hearts moved them to do.
When you have a heart for giving, nothing will stop you from giving.
One of the adventures that Michele and I have experienced in our marriage is the adventure of giving. Early on in our marriage we made a determination that we were going to give. I just want to share with you just as transparently as I can just some of the things that God has encouraged us as we’ve given to them.
One thing that – and this is the first thing; it’s the primary thing – the starting point. From the beginning of our marriage we made a determination that we were going to give the tithe – a tenth of all of our income and increase to the Lord through the local church. Malachi, chapter 3, verse 10 says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse.” We believe that represents the local church. So from the beginning of our marriage, we said, “We’re going to give ten percent of everything God blesses us with, we’re going to give it to the Lord through the church.” Sometimes we’ve tithed when we’ve had very, very little. Sometimes we’ve tithed when we had more. But God has always blessed as we’ve given the tithe.
Some of you are here today and God’s going to move in your heart to say, “Okay, we’re going to start toward giving the tithe. We want to be obedient to the Lord with that because God says that tithe belongs to Him, and if we’re keeping it we’re really robbing from Him.” That’s what Malachi, chapter 3, verse 10 says – that we rob God when we fail to give Him the tithe. So we give the tithe.
But then over and above the tithe, Michele and I have found great joy in giving to missions. And we give – every year we give sacrificially to international missions all over the world through the Lottie Moon Christmas offering, and we give to North American missions every year through the Annie Armstrong Easter offering. We give that because we want to see people come to know Jesus Christ as Savior, and we want to be part of sending missionaries all over the world. We’re so thankful to be a part of that. So that’s another place we’ve given.
Then we also give to ministries that we love, that bless us. One of the ministries that we give to is our radio ministry, and that is Moving Forward. Moving Forward is a nationwide ministry that starts right here in this pulpit, and now is going all over the United States of America. I think we’ve got a map we can show. If you look at all those pin-points, every week the message of God’s Word being taught from this pulpit is going to every one of those red pin-points all over this country. The green pinpoints are new. We just added those this week. That’s a whole network of radio stations that was started by Billy Graham in Minnesota a long time ago, and just this week they’ve started adding our program on the weekend, and they’re doing it for free, which is unusual. Most of the time we pay for the privilege of teaching the Word of God on the radio. So I’m thankful to God; we give to that.
Some people ask, “What do you receive from Moving Forward?” Nothing; we give to Moving Forward because we want to be part of doing that. And listen: There are people in our church who are making a difference because they love that ministry. I’ve asked Suzanne Lillard, who serves in Listener Relationship with Moving Forward just to come and share with you, because she hears the incredible stories of what God is doing through that ministry. Suzanne, come and share.
MOVING FORWARD RADIO
I just shared that with you – I’m so thankful to God just for the way people who love that ministry are sharing with that ministry and giving to that ministry, and its making a difference. If you’d like to learn more about giving to Moving Forward, there’s a QR code up on the screen that you can scan in if you’d like to do it that way, or you can go to our Welcome Desk after services are over; we’ve got more information.
GIVING BEGINS IN AND SHAPES OUR HEARTS
But I just am so thankful for the way God moves in the hearts of people and then giving comes out of their hearts. Giving begins in our hearts.
A second thing that Jesus knows about giving: Jesus knows that giving shapes our hearts. Giving shapes our hearts. Don’t miss this part. Giving doesn’t just come out of your heart; giving comes back to your heart and shapes your heart.
In Matthew, chapter 6, verse 21, Jesus said something – very familiar words, but sometimes we miss what He means by them. Jesus said in Matthew 6, verse 21: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Now think about those words, and think about the order in which Jesus puts those words. Jesus says, “Where your treasure is,” where you put your treasure, “there your heart will be also.” Your heart follows your treasure.
Here’s what that means: When you begin to give to something, you will have a greater and greater love for that thing you are giving to. When you give the tithe and the offerings to the church, you’ll have a greater love for your church. When you give to support the ministries of the church, whether that’s Celebrate Recovery, or whether that’s sending a kid to camp, or whether that’s helping someone go on a short-term mission trip, or whatever the ministry is – when you begin to give to those things, then your heart automatically goes to those things where you are giving.
I saw this illustrated several years ago in the life a guy. His name was Ken, and Ken for many years had been giving sacrificially to support an orphanage down in Honduras. And Ken – any time you talked to him, he was showing you pictures of that orphanage; he was telling you things about what was going on; he was always talking about that orphanage. He knew the names of the people who were leading there. He knew about the kids who were there. He knew when the kids were adopted and what kind of homes they went to. He knew all those things.
One day he was talking to me about it and I just said, “So Ken, how many times have you been to Honduras?” He said, “I’ve never been to Honduras.” I said, “You’ve never been?” I said, “You talk about it all the time!” He said, “I’ve never been there!” I said, “Well how many times have you – you’ve never visited this orphanage?” He said, “Never been there.” “You’ve never met any of these kids?” “Never met them.” “You’ve never met any of the people who work in the orphanage?” He said, “No.”
I said, “But you talk about them all the time; you pray for them all the time; you know them. So how can it be that you’ve never been there but you obviously love that ministry so much.” Here’s what he said; he said, “I started giving and the more I gave, the more I loved that orphanage ministry.” He said, “The more I gave, the more I wanted to know about those kids. The more I gave, the more I prayed for them. The more I gave, the more I was interested in the people working in that orphanage. The more I gave, the more my heart went to that place.”
Though he had never been there with his feet, he was there constantly in his heart. Your heart is shaped by where you give.
So, think about where you give. Think about what you do with what you have above that line that represents what you absolutely have to have. That line’s drawn there, and you say, “This is what I have to have to get by.” What are you doing with what’s above that? Your heart is shaped by what you give. Giving shapes our hearts.
GIVING REQUIRES TRUSTING GOD
And then one other thing that Jesus knows about our giving: Giving requires trusting God.
I want you to take your Bibles and turn with me in the New Testament to the book of 2 Corinthians. If you’ll look there with me in 2 Corinthians, chapter 9, I want us to look at verses 7 and 8 of this passage. I want you to turn there with me. It’s one of the most pointed passages and one of the most encouraging passages in the Bible about given. Paul is just writing to the Corinthian believers, telling them about how to give. And here’s what he says, beginning in verse 7. He says, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly, not under compulsion, for God loves cheerful giver.” So he’s just beginning by saying that giving begins in your heart. You don’t give because you feel like you have to. You don’t give because someone said you should feel guilty if you don’t; that’s not why you give. You give out of joy in your heart, because the Lord loves a cheerful giver.
Then here’s what he says in verse 8 of the text: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” That verse is about giving, and here’s what the Word of God is saying: It’s saying when you give, God is able to make all grace – in other words, He’s going to provide you with more than you need. He’s going to make all grace abound to you so that, having all sufficiency – that means He’s going to take care of everything that you need to meet that line that says, “Okay, I’ve got to have this much.” He said, “Always having all sufficiency in all things, you will then be able to abound in every good work.” Giving requires trusting God.
Now I want you to look with me again in Luke, chapter 21. We’ll go back to the temple, and back to that little widow woman who put in those two little coins, worth about a quarter of a penny. Jesus says, “She gave more than anybody else. Thy contributed about of their abundance, but she,” – look at the words of Jesus again in verse 4: “… she, out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Okay, you tell me: If she put in all she had to live on, and Jesus the Son of God just said that’s what she did – if she put in all she had to live on, when she left the temple that day and got home, what did she have? What’s the answer? She didn’t have anything. That’s the answer. If Jesus said she gave all she had to live on, that means when she got home there wasn’t something stuck back in a box in a closet somewhere. There wasn’t anything. She gave all that she had.
Here’s what she did: She drew that line all the way at the bottom of everything she had. That’s incredible giving. That’s incredible giving. I’ve known – I don’t know if I’ve known anybody other than this woman I read about in Scripture who said, “Yeah, I’ll draw that line all the way down to the bottom of everything I have.” She came home; she had nothing.
Now, let me ask you this question – you tell me: Did God take care of her? Answer. Yes! She didn’t starve to death. She didn’t get kicked out of her house. Her kids didn’t go without food, if she had kids. God took care of her, because the Bible promises, “He is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things, at all times, always having all you need, you will be able to abound in every good work.”
Where do you draw that line? And the question today is: Are you drawing that line where the Lord tells you to draw that line? Say, “Lord, this is enough. You’ve provided this for me. I’m going to draw the line and say this is enough. I don’t need to be loaded down with any more than this, and above that, I want to be faithful in giving to You.”
Join with me as we pray.
Father, we love You. We praise You. We thank You. We thank You, Lord, that You provide everything that we have. Lord, everything we have comes from You. And Lord, You’ve given us everything we have so that we can abound in every good work. Lord, give us hearts that give. Lord, give us open hands so that we would say, “Lord, the tithe is yours. You’ve provided everything I have, and Your Word commands the tithe. So, Lord, I’m going to be obedient to You in giving the tithe to You – the tenth of everything You give me. Then, Lord, over and above that tithe, I’m going to give as You move in my heart. I’m going to give to ministries that You put on my heart. I’m going to give to people in need that You put on my heart. And, Lord, as I give, as You move in my heart, Lord, I know You’re going to use that giving to shape my heart. You’re going to give me a deeper heart for the things of Your kingdom through my giving. Then, Lord, as I give, Lord, I know You’re going to take care of me. You’ve promised You will, so I’m trusting You. Lord, I pray for people in this room, some who are struggling with giving – some struggling to trust You. Lord, show them that Your grace is sufficient, and show them, Lord, that You will bless as they give. And Lord, I pray that throughout this week You would give us opportunities to give and that we would give faithfully and obediently to You. We praise You, Lord. We pray all of these things in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.
Today we’ve been talking about giving. You know, the greatest giving in all the universe is never what we give God. Truth is, we give because He has given to us. And ultimately, and most generously, He gave to us in giving His Son. What does John 3:16 say? “For God so loved the world that He,” what? “… gave.” He gave. And what did He give? Who did He give? “He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
God loves you so much that He did not spare His own Son. He freely delivered Him up on the cross for you, and He also, with Him, will freely give you all things. Some of you are here today and more than anything else you need to receive what God wants to give to you. You need to receive His gift of eternal life. Don’t leave this place without Jesus.