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Lesson 9: The Widow’s Offering (Mark 12, 2 Corinthians 8-9)

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Editor’s Note: This article is the lightly edited manuscript for the accompanying audio message that Vickie delivered.

The holiday season is almost here? The day for giving thanks is one week away and the day for giving gifts is almost six weeks away. Giving is on our minds these days. It is fun to think of giving gifts to those we love. It is not as much fun to give gifts because we feel obligated or think that they are expected. Why is giving both pleasure and pain?

Because it involves our treasure and therefore our hearts.

Everyone wants our money. Letters come from every charity, political and religious organization, pleading for our money to continue their work. We give to some, we feel guilty about not giving to others, and some letters we just throw away without a second thought. Our motives for giving are mixed. We think about whether or not we can take a tax deduction. We respond to emotional appeals that are prepared by professional fund raisers and often ignore the smaller, more effective works that do not make such a big splash but really need us more. Extracting our money from us is a big time business.

So it is the straw that breaks the camels back when you come to church and the sermon or the lesson is about giving. Should not the church be more spiritual than to ask us to give money?

Interestingly, the Bible has a great deal to say about money. For instance, one verse out of seven in the book of Luke is about money. Money is God’s greatest rival for our worship. That is why Jesus said, Luke 16:13. “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Paul gave a serious warning when he wrote to Timothy.

1 Timothy 6:6-10

We all know people who have wandered from the faith and brought upon themselves many sorrows because acquisition of money became their god. Maybe it is something you are struggling with even now. The first impressive church discipline recorded in Acts 5 involved money. Ananias and Sapphira both died because they pretended to give more than they did. Since money represents so much danger to our lives the Scripture also tells us how to be free from bondage to it.

The solution: Honor God with your money and trust Him to meet your needs.

It was the middle of the last week of Jesus’ life on earth, just before Passover. He had entered Jerusalem on the back of a colt the previous Sunday to the tumultuous welcome of the common people. He went to the temple daily to teach and had engaged almost immediately in constant confrontations from all the different factions who hated and feared HimCthe Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, priests and teachers of the law. They tried again and again to trap Him into taking positions which would either alienate Him from the people or get Him in trouble with the Romans. Each time He skillfully evaded their traps and revealed their ignorance of God’s Word and God’s ways.

After one such exchange He warned the people:

Mark 12:38-40

These teachers and preachers loved the honor and privileges they received because of their position. They did not get paid a regular salary for their work, but were supposed to be supported by tithes and offerings brought to the temple. Jesus accused them of exploiting widows, pressuring the very people they should have protected, women with the most limited means, to give them their property. He accused them of just making a show of spirituality by long prayers, but they were really con men. They loved money and were unscrupulous in getting it. These religious leaders today who preach a prosperity theology which they prove by living in multi-million dollar houses are not just at 21th century phenomena. Notice also that He said they would be severely punished.

When He finished speaking He sat down on a bench opposite the temple treasury. In the women’s court of the temple enclosure, the only place where women could come, there were 13 trumpet shaped receptacles for people to drop their offerings.

Mark 12:41

Picture the scene. The city was crowded for the Passover celebration. People came from all over to give their tithes and offerings to the Lord. Many rich people threw in large amounts. Can you not hear the sound of their coins clanging against the receptacles? Not only that but Matt 6:2 tells us that some wealthy people even had a trumpet fanfare announce their offering. Unnoticed among these proud and prominent men was a little widow.

Mark 12:42

She quietly slipped in and put her two tiny coins in the treasury. They hardly made a sound. They were only worth 1/3 of a cent, 1/64th of a day’s wage. This humble widow, poorly dressed, sorry that she could give no more, gave her tiny gift and slipped away hoping that she had not been noticed. But she was!

Mark 12:43-44

Jesus saw her and was so impressed by her offering that he called his disciples to him to use her as an object lesson for the kind of giving that pleases God. He said, She gave more than all the others.

God has an altogether different way of judging the value of our gifts. We look at the actual amount and are impressed or not impressed by it.

God measures our gift by what we have left for ourselves.

It is not a sacrifice to give 1 million dollars when you have 100 million left. It is not a sacrifice to give $1000 when you are earning $100,000 a year. But it is a total sacrifice to empty your purse into the collection plate when there is nothing in the bank. That is what this widow did. Was not it a little unrealistic for her to do that? After all, does not God expect us to use our common sense?

What was she really saying when she gave all she had to live on? She was demonstrating her faith in God to supply her needs. She loved the Lord and was grateful to Him. She was not embittered by self-pity, she was not expecting any handouts. She was simply entrusting herself to God. He was her Husband, her Provider, her Security. (Is. 54:5.)

She was a living example of Matt. 6:31-34

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.”

By her giving she acknowledged God as the Source of all she needed, that He knew her needs and she was willing to trust Him to provide one day at a time. That is really great faith.

No wonder Jesus commended her. Talk is cheap. Actions are costly. God did not need her money, but she needed to give. Do you honestly think that God was going to let her down after such an expression of faith? I am sure there was bread on her table that day.

1000 years earlier King David had the same perspective about wealth. He gave his personal fortune to buy the materials for Solomon to build a temple for the Lord that David would never see. His example stimulated the generosity of this people and they had a great day of dedication of the gifts for the temple.

1 Chronicles 29:10-16

God is the One who gives us what we have in the first place. It all belongs to Him. When we give to Him we honor Him by acknowledging that He is the Source of all our blessings.

God does not need our money. We need to give as part of worship.

While the whole Bible has much to say about money and giving there are 2 chapters that especially concentrate on the subject and give us some important principles to govern our attitude about money.

The Corinthian Christians had a lot of problems. Some of them were that they were impulsive, changeable and fickle. The previous year they had committed themselves to giving to support the ministry of the Gospel and sharing with the needy and they had started with enthusiasm. But they had not continued and Paul speaks very frankly to them.

He used 3 examples of sacrificial giving to admonish and encourage the Corinthians.

Three examples of sacrificial giving

1.The Macedonian Christians

2 Corinthians 8:1-3

If any people had excuses not to give, they did. They were suffering many hardships. Some had lost their means of earning a living because they were Christians. Some had been rejected by their families. They were in extreme poverty. But they were so joyful in their faith that they gave more than they were able to give. In fact they pleaded to give. No one had to urge them to sign pledges or faith/promise card.

Why were they so generous? They had first given themselves to the Lord. When we give ourselves, it includes our pocketbooks. Paul then says, “Follow their example, finish what you started.” Giving is a grace. God will enable you to give.

2. The Lord Jesus Christ

2 Corinthians 8:9

What a paradox. Jesus left the riches of heaven to become a human being. To live on earth in a humble carpenter’s home. To earn His living with His own hands. He was a poor man. He never owned any property. Then He suffered the humiliation of a criminal’s death for us. But he rose victoriously from the dead. When we put our faith in Him we become heirs of God, all the riches of heaven is promised us in the future and the rich blessings of a right relationship with God is ours now. Jesus gave Himself for us so that we, who were poor, might be rich.

2 Corinthians 8:11-12

Notice how God evaluates our gifts. By our eager willingness and according to our means. Our giving must be voluntary. Notice that God never asks us to give what we do not have, but from what we do have. That is why it is so good to have a percentage as a guide. When you have a little, you give accordingly, when you have a lot, you give accordingly. The O.T. had the tithe, 10% as a guide. But there were 3 tithes taken. (2 yearly and 1 every 3rd year)

Dr. Charles Ryrie estimates that the tithes actually came to about 22%. And beyond that they gave freewill offerings. Whatever amount you decide on, giving a percentage of your income is a good start. Then as you get used to the blessings that come from giving you can increase your percentage. You see giving is not a one-way street. You do all the giving and someone else gets all the benefits. Giving blesses the giver. It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Giving is a good measure of your spiritual maturity. Giving is not an option; it is a command. Your love for the Lord is measured by obedience. Generous giving pays wonderful returns.

2 Corinthians 9:6

Action Steps: First, the law of sowing and reaping applies to your giving. If you plant a just a few seeds you get a little crop. If you plant a lot of seed you get a large crop. If you invest generously in God’s program, the returns will be far beyond your imagination. People will be saved in countries you will never go to because you supported a missionary, a radio program, a literature campaign. These people will meet you in heaven and thank you for helping to make it possible for them to be there, too. That is what Jesus meant when He said,

Luke 16:9 (NIV) I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

2 Corinthians 9:7

Attitude: The decision about how much to give is yours to make. Just be sure that you are not giving because someone is pressuring you, but because you are willing. God loves a cheerful giver, a hilarious giver. And God knows exactly the attitudes and motives for our giving.

2 Corinthians 9:8-11

Ability: Do you see what this is saying? God will continue to supply all that you need personally, so that you can continue to give generously on every occasion. He is really saying,

“Put my interests first and I will take care of yours. Trust me with your material needs. I will give you the ability to give abundantly.” Two ways to meet our needs: get more money or spend less.

Accomplishments: What does this kind of giving accomplish here and now?

2 Corinthians 9:12-15

Your giving is a ministry, a service to God. (Priestly service, diakonia, liturgeia) Credited to you. Your giving will supply the needs of God’s people. They will praise and thank God for your ministry.

Your giving is proof of your obedience and a good testimony to others.

People will pray for you and care for you because you have cared for them in your giving.

3. God the Father

2 Corinthians 9:15

He gave His Son for us. Anything we give is in gratitude for this gift which is beyond description.

That leads to the question, where should we give?

How should we distribute the Lord’s money?

  • Your local church should have priority in your giving. The salaries, building maintenance, and materials all cost money and you are the beneficiaries. The folks at the Christian Science Church are not going to give to this church.
  • Family members in need.

Give to those in need in your own family, e.g. aged parents.

  • Ministries that personally bless you.
  • Missions.

Diversify: foreign, home, children, education, evangelism, church planting, etc.

  • The poor.

First in God’s family, Gal. 6:10. Then to others. We are responsible to care for needy believers. Union Gospel, Salvation Army, Church Mercies Fund, Samaritan’s Purse, etc.

  • Charities

Those who are fighting battles for morality in the public square.

Give purposefully, intelligently and obediently as God lays it on your heart to give. But give.

2 Cor. 9:11 says that God will supply abundantly so that we can be generous on every occasion.

This is such an exciting concept to me. May I give a word of personal testimony? When I was about 12 or 13, I heard a message on tithing and asked my mother if we tithed. She said, “We have so little.” And that was true. She was a widow with 2 daughters to support. But we decided to give our little tithe and we continued to do it. God continued to meet our needs and supply more. He met her needs till the day she died at 80 years of age. And she never had more than a few dollars in the bank. In my adult life, it has been exciting to raise the percentage of my giving from time to time and see God continue to supply so that I can give more.

If you are having financial problems, the solution may not be to get more, but to give more.

Giving to the Lord from what He has given you will break the stranglehold that money and things have on our lives. It is a great step of faith, but God can handle it. He has not broken a promise yet. Are you willing to be obedient to Him in this important area? I am sure Jim Elliot’s famous statement included our money as well as our lives.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Jesus used this poor widow’s act of devotion and faith to teach us many things about our money and our God.

What does Jesus reveal about God, our heavenly Father?

  • Our Father is the Source of all we have. It belongs to Him.
  • Our Father does not measure the worth of our gifts by their size, but by what we have left.
  • Our Father looks at the heart, our motive for giving. He does not reward ostentatious generosity for purpose of impressing people.
  • Our Father does not expect us to give what we do not have. We are to give from what we have and everyone has something. No gift is too small.
  • Our Father will not compel us to give, just as He will not compel us to love Him. Giving is a personal matter.
  • Our Father wants us to give voluntarily and generously with faith that God will supply our needs and enable us to keep on giving. Not acceptable if reluctant.
  • Our Father will give generously to us so we can continue to give generously.
  • Our Father gives eternal returns on our investments. We will leave all our bank accounts, investments and real estate here when we die. But we will be welcomed in heaven by those we have reached through our giving. These are eternal returns.
  • Our Father uses our giving as a testimony to cause others to thank and praise God, and to pray for us.
  • Our Father Himself is the most generous Giver.

If giving to the Lord has been a problem for you, confess it as selfishness, unbelief, or greed. Then tell the Lord you want to believe Him for this area which has such a stranglehold on our affections. You want to be free from bondage to money. Then decide what percentage you will faithfully give. Do it and see how God will bless you.

When we started this series I said we would emphasize what the Lord Jesus would reveal about our invisible Father in heaven. We have seen Him to be our omniscient, omnipotent Creator, a Father who is compassionate, loving, strong, generous, welcoming, interested in every detail of our lives. He initiates a relationship with sinners and makes them His children by faith. He delivers us from sin. He is patient with ignorance and hates arrogance and hypocrisy. He gives us forgiveness, peace, and joy. He sent Jesus so we could be with Him forever in heaven. Let me remind you of what J.I. Packer said.

“You sum up the whole of New Testament teaching in a single phrase if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator. In the same way, you sum up the whole of the New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. Father’ is the Christian name for God.”1


1 J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 201.

Related Topics: Character of God, Christology, Finance, Tithing