Thursday, November 15, 2012

Your Treasure

Mark 12:38-44
New International Version (NIV)

38 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.

One Sunday a pastor told the congregation that the church needed some extra money and asked the people to prayerfully consider giving a little extra in the offering plate. He said that whoever gave the most would be able to pick out three hymns. After the offering plates were passed, the pastor glanced down and noticed that someone had placed a $1,000 bill in the offering. He was so excited that he immediately shared his joy with his congregation and said he'd like to personally thank the person who placed the money in the plate. A very quiet, elderly, saintly lady all the way in the back shyly raised her hand. The pastor asked her to come to the front. Slowly she made her way to the pastor. He told her how wonderful it was that she gave so much and in thanksgiving asked her to pick out three hymns. Her eyes brightened as she looked over the congregation, pointed to the three handsomest men in the building and said, "I'll take him and him and him!"

We are in our Stewardship month and today’s New Testament scripture has been used by preachers for thousands of years in order to have their congregation give more to the church. Sometimes preachers abuse this scripture and tell their congregation to give everything.
I once knew a girl who literally gave everything to the church. Her pastor had used this verse in his sermon and she had her weekly paycheck with her and signed it over to the church. Except she had no savings or any funds to draw upon and so she had no food for the rest of the week and was late on her phone bill. She mentioned it to the pastor and all he said was that God would reward her for her sacrifice.

Now in this scripture, Jesus was not telling us to give everything that we have to the church, but was showing the disciples one of the key aspects of giving. When you give, it should mean something to you.

There are three other key aspects of giving that God gave us in the New Testament:

1) In Matthew 6: 2-3 Jesus tells us to give quietly and humbly:
So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” Some people love to get recognition for a gift. In the TV show “The Big Bang theory” The character Sheldon Cooper has to get recognition for a gift. When one is given he has to get an equally valued gift to give back.  And when he gives a more expensive gift, he makes sure to make a spectacle about it. Have you ever met people like that? But God wants us to humbly and quietly give. To give as He leads you, which leads to the next key aspect of giving

2) give cheerfully; Saint Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 9:7
 that, “let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” God wants you to think about what you give and what He is calling you to. He wants you to be a cheerful giver. You have often heard the phrase, it is better to give than to receive?  Sometimes when you give, you feel good. It feels good to give. In a recent research study, UCLA life scientists find that giving support offers health benefits -- to the giver.
"Giving to others has benefits," said UCLA psychology graduate student Tristen Inagaki, the lead author of the study, who has been awarded National Science Foundation and Jacob K. Javits fellowships. "We even saw substantially more activity in these reward brain regions when the women were giving support. It reduces stress levels and promotes good health. So it actually feels good to give.

Finally, 3) Ephesians 5:9 and 20 tells us, “ Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” We are to be thankful in everything we do, and when we give it should be with a thankful spirit. God has given us so much, giving is a way of saying thanks to God. Throughout the Old Testament the saints worshipped God by giving to Him the first fruits of the ground and cattle. Thanksgiving is giving thanks to God for another year of life with family and friends, thanking him for the year of answered prayer, of comfort when afflicted by illness or grief.

But through it all giving thanks to God for His Providence. He knows everything and sometimes we get upset at life or how things are going, we know that all things work out for good to those who love God. God knows our footprints both behind and before us and He goes with us in the valleys and leads us to the mountaintops of life.

Two men were shipwrecked near an island. When they landed ashore, one of them began screaming and yelling, “We’re going to die! We’re going to die! There’s no food! No water! We’re going to die!” The second man leaned calmly against a palm tree. When the first man saw how calm his friend was, he went crazy and shouted, “Don’t you understand?! We’re going to die!!” Undisturbed, the second man replied, “You don’t understand, I make $100,000 a week.” Dumbfounded, the first man looked at him and asked, “What difference does that make?!? We’re on an island with no food and no water! We’re going to DIE!!!” The second man answered, “You just don’t get it. I make $100,000 a week and I tithe ten percent on that $100,000 a week. Wherever I am, my pastor will be sure to find me!”

That man was thankful for giving!

And as we celebrate Thanksgiving here in our Fellowship today, Let us give thanks. Thanks to God for the big things, the small things and the everyday in between.