Generous Sermon Series
“The Heart of Giving”
In today’s passage Jesus is continuing his preaching ministry in the temple, and after a long and trying day Jesus wants his disciples to observe something. He is going to compare scribes who are looked at by society as being examples and persons to be looked up to (well-dressed, positions of power, respected when they enter into an area), against a widow (poor, low position in society, and for the most part invisible). But Jesus saw her. This is a story about being seen. Jesus is saying, “I know typically you pay attention and watch these guys, but today, I want you to see this person – watch her.”
Giving to Get Something (20:45-47)
45 And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, 46 “Beware 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.”
Earlier in the day while Jesus was teaching in the temple, scribes and the Saducees on separate occasions asked Him questions. In vv. 41-44 Jesus is pointing out that they do not interpret the Scriptures correctly, and here they are no responding to Scripture correctly (v. 45) tells us that once He had answered their questions, he warns the people about their pride. He makes comments about the scribes that where “in the hearing of all the people.”
Jesus is not saying all scribes are bad or wrong, but that they should “beware” of the scribes who have certain character flaws. When these flaws become too apparent, we must beware.
The scribes Jesus mentions are men who “like” . . . They coveted these marks of distinction.
1) “walk around in long robes” – this was the distinctive dress of the Jewish scholar. Ostentatious. “One could always recognize a scribe because he wore a white linen robe with a long fringe that reached to his feet.” The robes also marked them as people who did not do physical labor, “his living would not be cumbered with such clothing.”
These men made their living with their minds, and they wanted everyone to know it. Only those involved in physical labor when they passed didn’t have to stop what they were doing and recognize them.
2) “love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts” – People were to call them Rabbi, invite them to their social parties, giving them the place of honor at the left or right of the host. In the temple, there was a semicircular bench in front of the ark and faced the congregation. They sat with their back to the Torah.
Jesus even specifically warned about assuming the seat of honor, and how we should not do that in Luke 14:10-11 “But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
3) who devour widows’ houses – as part of their responsibility to oversee the affairs of widow’s estates, they would collect an exaggerated administrative fee. As a leader there were a dozen ways they could devour a widows resources, “the widows saw themselves impoverished while their guardians grew fat.”
For the most powerful to devour the most vulnerable was heinous to Jesus. They used their positions to improve their estate at the cost of those they were supposed to be helping and ministering to.
4) “for a pretense make long prayers” – When you combine excessive pride, with unrelenting greed, you cover that with as Hamlet said, “thou protest too much.” Their public prayers had to show they deserved to wear the robes, and cover the guilt of their conscience.
“Such behavior represents the hypocrisy of the religious elite who were concerned only with external appearance and sought to look good in the eyes of others.” James even warns those who desire to teach and lead in the church, James 3:1 “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” “Increased responsibility means increased accountability.” Some people just want the position because of how other people will see them, the church must beware.
Jesus wanted the disciples to look at the giving of the scribes (even though they had power, riches, and fame), they took advantage of their position to take from (the widows) even though it was their job to help them.
Hosea 6:6 “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” This passage tells us that our hearts is more important than the rituals of worship. The scribes and the Pharisees gave to get something (prestige, power, flattery, etc.)
Giving to Honor Someone (21:1-4)
Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 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.”
Where are the scribes and Pharisees, now? They have left the scene having been blasted by Jesus’ comments about them.
“Contributions for running the temple were placed in trumpet-shaped receptacles, thirteen of which were located on the court of women.” The chests had specific offerings that the contents of the chest were to go towards (doves, coins, etc.) Some were for required offerings by the worshippers, some were voluntary gifts.
“According to the Misnah, each of the chests bore inscriptions designating what the offerings were for: “New Shekel dues, old shekel dues, bird offerings, young birds for the whole offering, wood, frankincense, gold for the mercy seat, and on six of them ‘free-will offerings.’”
When Mary went to the Temple after Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:22,24) this is where she would have gone to present her offering, and where she would have met Simeon.
“An officer oversaw the collection and often counted what had been given. The coins the widow gave were the smallest ones made – each worth 1/100 of a denarious (about five-minutes of labor at minimum wage).” The coins were called lepta, literally “peeled” or “fine.” The two lepta represented barely anything.
Bock says, “We tend to appreciate the amount of the gift, not necessarily the sacrifice that went into the giving.”
How did Jesus know she was a widow? Just like the scribes wore their white robes, widows also wore distinctive mourning clothes. Hers were probably worn and tattered.
(v. 4) “For they all contributed out of their abundance” – Jesus is referencing everyone there in the temple. Jesus is not saying that those who gave made a big deal of it, or that they did not give in such a way that was wrong. The contribution from abundance means that it will not be missed. Giving it to God, did not really cost them anything.
But, only the widow gave in sacrificially. Luke (the author) uses a rare and archaic word for poor, “he saw a poor (penichra) widow”; it suggests one who has to labor hard with toil for a living (penurious). Luke’s word choice is telling us that this poor woman has to labor hard for whatever she has. While the scribes were devouring and taking, this woman has to labor hard.
For the scribes and the rich it was their wealth that got in the way of their giving. They had everything to lose, the widow had nothing to lose, so she gave it all. This is a mindset that we have to watch out for – the wealthier we become, the more likely we are to stop depending on God, and seeing our possessions as our own – everything has always and will always belong to Him, whether you have two pennies or two billion pennies.
Her loss, was used by God to bring honor to her. God does not waste our tears. In Psalm 42:7 “Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.”
The giving that Jesus praises is the one where a person gave everything they had. So, is this teaching saying that Jesus wants me to give everything to God? Yes. Our hand should be open to God. God knows we have to have a place to sleep, a way to move around in our environment, we need to eat and drink, and we need clothing. Our kids need school supplies, and medicine when they get sick.
All of this comes out of our pockets – along with our expenses is our giving to the Lord at church. We are not a compartmentalized person; we should not have closed fists with God – we are always and completely a worshipper of God (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc.) All of our possessions are to be used for the glory of God (the couch, our car, our home, and giving to the Lord). Our gifts, skills, talents are used throughout the entire week for the glory of God – We are a whole person.
If this widow had decided to keep her two widow’s mites – it would not have been missed. Her offering would not have changed the temple worship very much – but she would have lost her participation in the life of the temple. We are able to participate on the life of the church when we give. God doesn’t count the coins, He weighs the heart. Just like Jesus saw the widow, God sees us, in our entirety (a loves us anyway).
Two leptas was the smallest amount that could be given by law. God allowed this woman to have something to give, so that she could participate in the time of worship. She could not give less, and she could not give more (it was the perfect amount for her) – it was all she had. It was enough to worship, but not enough to draw any kind of attention.
She was saying to God, “I love you. Here’s my heart, my life, I trust you with it all. It’s not much, but it’s all I have.” It is also a question of security. The rich people had kept and used a vast majority of their money – their giving to God did not really cost them anything in the future. Therefore, they didn’t really need God in the future. Their security was in themselves and their riches. For the widow, her security comes from God alone.
Giving is a way that God uses to teach us about ourselves, our desires, what we are willing to live without, our hearts, our relationship to Him, how we put God’s priorities first or our own, where does our security come from?
Whereas, the poor widow gave all she had now – and had to trust the Lord for her future. Marshall says, “what matters is not the amount that one gives, but the amount that one keeps for oneself.”
There are some things we can hold on to from this passage:
The condition of our heart matters to God when we give. If I have credit card debt, the credit card doesn’t care about the condition of my heart, I need to pay my bill. That’s all they care about, give them the money owed. This is not true with God; He cares about the motive and the condition of our relationship with Him as we are giving.
The giving that pleases God will cost you something. We must give in such a way that we go without something we would like to hang on to. 2 Samuel 24:24 “But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.”
God is the one who grows His church – He takes what we give Him and He can do great things with tiny offerings given with the right heart. Hughes says, “If there is love in the sacrifice on the part of the giver, there will be spiritual power in the gift.”
Once Jesus left the temple that day, he would never return. At this point He is destined toward the cross and crucifixion for the salvation of mankind. In that ultimate offering, He held nothing back. He gave it all.
 Mark 12:37ff.
 “Matthew 23:1-39 has a very full and rich description of this last phase of the debate in the temple where Jesus drew a full-length portrait of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and scribes in their presence. It was the last solemn climax to this last public appearance of Christ in the temple when Jesus poured out the vials of his indignation as he had done before (Matt. 6:12; Luke 11:12; 15-18).” A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume 2 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Publishing, 1930) 255.
 R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word, Luke (Wheaton, Illinois; Crossway, 2015) 715.
 Leon Morris, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 321.
 George Arthur Buttrick, General Editor, The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 8 (Nashville, Tennessee; Abingdon Press, 1952) 359.
 W. N. Clarke, Commentary on the Gospel of Mark (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania; Judson Press, 1881) 298.
 See also, Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus.
 David Dockery, General Editor, The New American Commentary, Volume 24 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1992) 508.
 Hughes, 720.
 Hughes, 724.
 Alfred Edersheim, The Temple Its Ministry and Services (Peaboy, Massachusetts; Hendrickson Publishing, 2002) 25.
 Darrel L. Bock, The NIV Application Commentary, Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing House, 1996) 526.
 Bock, 527.
 Robertson, 256. Constative second aorist active indicative, “covering the whole crowd, except for the widow.”
 Buttrick, 359.
 E. J. Tinsley, The Cambridge Bible Commentary, The Gospel According to Luke (New York New York; Cambridge Press, 1965) 182.
 Herschel H. Hobbs, An Exposition of the Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Book House, 1972) 290. “Schottgen on Mark 12:42, cites a Rabbinic rule that a single mite should not be given to the eleemosynart chest, from which he infers that the widow’s gift was the very smallest that was allowed.” (Clarke, 299).
 Clifton Allen, The Broadman Bible Commentary, Volume 9 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Publishing, 1970) 158.
 Hughes, 727.