On Being All-In

Text: Mark 12:38-44


People watching is a favorite activity for many.  It happens in places like grocery stores, malls, sporting events, even churches.  Our text is a people-watching story. Imagine this setting: on one of the walls of the temple there were 13 offering boxes, about the size of a suitcase, made out of metal.  There were signs at each box, with a slit on the top where people could place their offering.  The signs may have said something like building maintenance, utilities, another for the rabbi’s salary, and for widows and orphans.  The room was jammed with people pressing to make their contribution as they saw fit.  It would have been great for people watching.

1. Outward manifestation of holiness is useless if the heart is not all-in on Jesus.

    A.  People watching at the temple

  1. In our text we find Jesus in the last week of his ministry in Jerusalem. He continues to be at odds with the religious leaders of the day, and the relationship is aggravated and testy.  Still, Jesus as a teaching rabbi, warns his followers about the scribes, who wore long robes as a mark of distinction so as people would notice and stand in awe of them.  They were not salaried and as such they lived off the generosity of benefactors to the point of usurping the homes of the poor.  They loved titles, honors, sought out the best seats at gatherings and banquets, and determined to be noticed with long prayers and association with men of greater rank.  They made sure everyone in the temple noticed their generous alms giving.
  2. Then came a little old lady. No one noticed her.  She was almost invisible to the busy, noisy crowd.  She approached the offering boxes.  Into one of the boxes she drops in two small coins, worth less than a penny.  Jesus whispered to his disciples, “Do you see that little old lady over there?  She gave her last penny from the abundance of her heart; she gave everything she had.”
  3. At other times of the day you might find her at a busy gate or corner in the city, begged for food or pennies to buy food. Whatever the circumstances, her faith internally shone, her faith trusted Jesus to look after her.

   B.  Other examples

  1. We notice that the widow of Zarephath in our Old Testament lesson did as asked by the prophet Elijah. She had only enough flour and oil for one more meal, and assumed she and her son would at die of starvation after this last meal.  Yet she bakes a pancake for Elijah, then for herself, then her son, knowing there would be nothing left after this meal.

EG: Grandma Schmidt lived a life that revolved around her reading of Scripture and a prayer life that was both admirable and praiseworthy, though she would immediately disagree with any positive commendation.  Her offerings were always $20 each Sunday out of a weekly budget of $100.  She was a woman of God, living each day as God gave it.  So many lives were touched – and changed – because of her being all-in with her trust and faith in her heavenly Father.  She was satisfied with her confidence in the Lord looking after her.

  1. The challenge to being all-in

       EG: It’s not that easy being green (Kermit) – see printout –

  1. How much is enough?

1. I do admire those stars of entertainment or sports who write checks for $100,000, and with some fanfare donate the money to a charity. If Bill Gates donates ten million to eradication poverty and disease around the world, that’s admirable.  Way to go Bill and Melinda Gates.  If the person who is homeless donates $10 and then needs to stand on a corner to beg for money for food, they will receive their reward.  And the widow’ mite, with no publicity, gives her all.

2.  The contrast in our text is clear. Among those who seek to serve God, there is the need to recognize that Jesus asks us to be all-in, to have full confidence in his direction for our lives.    We are the Lord’s, and that’s not because of degrees earned or awards received, or because of positions in society or amid a religious organization, but purely because of his grace and being right with him through the blood of Jesus Christ.

3.  But can we meet the example of the widow in our text? Jesus sees us as we are, be it green and easily blending in the world around you.

EG: Children’s drawings or crayon-colored art work displayed with pride by parents / grandparents and displayed on the refrigerator door – God notices the little things, he smiles, he treasures them, and he delights in them.  He sees us, imperfect as we are, and he smiles. That’s your life, that’s my life on the His refrigerator.

In conclusion I ask two questions: one question is easy and the other is hard.  The first question is easy: why was the widow so generous?  The second one is hard: What would it take for you and me to be like the widow?  Amen


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