Sacrificial giving


Sermon: Sunday, 8th January, 2022 Video
Speaker: John Johnstone
Scripture: Luke 20:45-47 and Luke 21:1-4

If Jesus looked at money given to Kirkcaldy Free Church over 2022, would he be pleased? A more personal, but equally important question, is if Jesus looked at your giving over 2022 how would he feel? What is it about our giving which would pleases Jesus? Is Jesus really all that bothered about what we do with our money? Does he even notice?

1. Jesus sees and evaluates how and what we give to his work

I think most of us ‘people-watch’ from time to time. When we’re at the airport or in a queue in the shops and we are just waiting, and we begin to notice how people are behaving around us. It can be fascinating. Well, Jesus is ‘people-watching’ here in the temple treasury. He observes the rich and the poor and those in-between, as they place their gifts into one of the 13 brass treasure chests, which were called trumpets due to their shape. When Jesus people-watches, he has a huge advantage because he can also see into our hearts and so he knows our motivation for giving. This means that Jesus is able to perfectly evaluate the gifts which are giving. And his evaluation here would have been shocking to many, because he says that a poor widow, who gave just a few pennies, gave more than the rich who gave thousands of pounds. This really is a challenging passage for each one of us.

Let’s get back to one of my questions: does Jesus really care what you give to his work? I think this passage teaches us that the answer to this question is a resounding ‘Yes’. He cared back then in the temple treasury, and he cares just as much today. ‘The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.’ (Proverbs 15:3) Jesus sees what you give to his work and he also sees and knows what you withhold and keep for other things. He knows where the rest of our money goes. So, let’s reflect on our giving over the last year and think together, what did Jesus see in our hearts? Did he see generosity and love and sacrifice, or did he see selfishness and self-indulgence? Jesus cares about the way in which you give to his work.

One key Old Testament passage which underlines the fact that God notices and cares about our giving is found in Malachi: ‘Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ ‘In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse — your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’ (Malachi 3:8-10)

In the Old Testament, God asked his people to set aside a tenth of their income for his work. Those who didn’t do that were robbing God, which is a serious business indeed. Those who were openhanded would know great blessing from God. We are in the New Testament age, and we live in the light of the cross, where Jesus bore our sins in his own body. The Old Testament saints did not know about that and yet they gave a tenth to the Lord’s work. Should we give less than a tenth? We need to think about these things.

2. Jesus commends the widow because her giving is sacrificial

‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’ (Luke 21:3-4)

If someone is fairly comfortable financially, and they set up a direct debit to the church, but truth be told, it really makes very little impact to their financial affairs then we cannot call this sacrificial giving. It is giving, but it’s not sacrificial.

If you’re giving out of your surplus, but your giving to the church doesn’t impact your cash flow, then that’s not sacrificial giving. It’s making little difference to the way you are living your life. You aren’t giving anything up in order to give to the Lord’s work. In contrast, we have the living example of this widow. She has nothing to fall back on – no surplus. She has so little but she loves God and loves him with everything she has. This is radical devotion at great personal cost.

Is my giving sacrificial? Is yours? Jesus weighs up the strength of our giving by looking at our levels of self-sacrifice, and not merely by the fact we are contributing something.

George Muller: “God judges what we give by what we keep.”

This widow wasn’t keeping much for herself. In fact, she was entrusting herself to the care of God, by giving all she had!

How can we apply this principle to our own lives? Often, we look to our own needs and even comforts first and then think of church and others, but this widow shows us the right way ahead. Would we ever sacrifice the holiday we want, the car we want or the clothes we want in order to give to the church? Would we go without things we are used to in order to give more to the Kingdom of God? You need to work these things out for yourselves, and so do I. Whether you have little money or a lot, or somewhere in between, you ought to give sacrificially. You ought to notice it.

When Paul writes to the church in Corinth, he knows that they are a bit stingy when it comes to giving. What does he do to encourage them? Like Jesus does, he holds up before them a wonderful example of giving, and the example is that of the churches in Macedonia. They are an amazing example because they are very poor themselves, and yet they count it a privilege to support churches which are even poorer than they are.

‘And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you — see that you also excel in this grace of giving.’ (2 Corinthians 8:1-7)

This is another powerful example of self-sacrificing generosity. The churches in Macedonia count it a privilege to give to God’s work. That’s the attitude God is looking for. They have their own problems of poverty and yet they are excellent givers. Why was this? What made them tick? I think the key is this: ‘They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.’ (2 Corinthians 8 v 5)

Their attitude reminds me of the hymn:
‘All to Jesus I surrender, all to thee I freely give;
I will ever love and trust you, in your presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all.
All to thee my blessed Saviour, I surrender all.’

Sacrificial giving comes from our hearts. It is only when we grasp how much Jesus gave for us in living and dying for us that we will want to surrender all to Jesus, including our money and resources. In other words, our Christian giving is a natural overflow of our commitment to Christ.

3. The way we use our money reveals the state of our heart

Are we using our money mainly for ourselves? ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ (Luke 12:34) Jesus knows that if we treasure him, we will sacrificially support his work. The teachers of the law are the polar opposite of the widow in their attitude to money, and God deliberately places their actions next to that of the widow so we can see the difference. For the religious leaders, it’s all about themselves. They are proud and greedy and so puffed up with their own importance that they don’t see the importance of widows at all. In fact, they strip widows of the little money they have without any remorse. ‘They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.’ (Luke 20:47)

Our giving is one barometer of our spiritual life. In the case of the scribes, the barometer reading showed their spiritual death. Whatever the scribes did, their audience was other people, and they longed for the praise of men. The widow is so different to them, quietly and unnoticed placing her offering in the chest. Her audience is God. We have a warning here about our giving. Who is our audience? Do we give secretly and quietly, or do we want others to know what we are doing?

4. Our giving generously is a sign that we trust God will provide for us

We can look at this truth another way; if we are stingy then we might lack the faith to believe God will give us all that we need.

Donald Whitney: “This poor widow was willing to give ‘everything- all she had to live on’ because she believed God would provide for her. We will give to the extent that we believe God will provide for us. The more we believe God will provide for our needs, the more we are willing to risk giving Him. And the less we trust God, the less we will give Him.”

I think this is a helpful comment. If we’re honest, we like to hoard up as much as we can because we think- I need this money for my retirement, or my holiday, or to fund my university course, or for something unexpected, or for a new car. If we are people clinging on to our money for ourselves and not giving it away, it shows a lack of faith on our part. Jesus says, ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ (Matthew 6:33) Do you believe that? Then give generously and sacrificially.

I remember 28 years ago being a first-year student and needing money to get through university. An opportunity came up to serve in mission in the summer holidays, but I was also conscious that the summer was a good opportunity to work for a few months. In the end, I decided to go on the mission, and during the mission I met someone who got me a job during term-time, which meant each year of university I was able to break even. God is no man’s debtor.

5. Remember – all we have belongs to God anyway

‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.’ (Psalm 24:1)

‘Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ (Exodus 19:5)

The Bible teaches that ultimately, we don’t own anything. God owns everything and we are his stewards or his managers. We like to talk about ‘my house’ and ‘my car’ and ‘my savings’. ‘I worked hard over many years to get into this position.’ But the reality is, God has entrusted us with material possessions and wants us to use them for his glory.

‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty.’ (Haggai 2:8)

And in Deuteronomy, the Lord warns us about forgetting where our resources come from. He says: ‘You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth…’ (Deuteronomy 8:17-18)

Donald Whitney: “So the question is not, how much of my money should I give to God? but rather, how much of God’s money should I keep for myself?”