1 Apr. Mark 12:41-44

1 Apr. Jesus's radical teaching about wealth and giving

"Jesus sat near the Temple money box and watched the people put in their money. Many rich people gave large sums of money. Then a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins [two 'lepta'], which were not even worth a penny."

"Calling his followers to him, Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, this poor widow gave more than all those rich people.'"

"'They gave only what they did not need. This woman is very poor, but she gave all she had; she gave all she had to live on.'"

          (Mark 12:41-44)



Jesus was nothing but radical in his teaching. Today's passage finds him in the Temple courtyards in Jerusalem just before the Passover festival began, sitting near the Temple treasury, watching people put their offerings into the collection box.

It was the generally conceived wisdom in Jesus's day (as it still is in ours?) that people who gave the most to the Temple (or to other charitable causes) were the most generous individuals; and these people would be 'rewarded' by God for their bountiful giving.

But Jesus turned this popular conception on it's head! He pointed out that, in God's eyes, the poor widow who gave her last penny was far more 'generous' in her giving than the rich people who could afford to give far more than they actually did!

This is still true in our society today, but few people (including many in our churches) recognise it. John Wesley, the 18th century Anglican priest who became the founder of the Methodist church gave a sermon on giving with 3 points of advice: 1. Earn all you can. 2. Save all you can … and 3. Give all you can.

Too many Christian churches follow a policy on giving that is pre-Christian and not in line with Jesus's teaching. They point to the Jewish Old Testament policy of 'tithing' (see Genesis 14:18-20; 28:16-22 & Deuteronomy 14:22-28) and encourage all their members to give a tenth of their income to the work of the church. While acknowledging that many churches regard this as a 'minimum' and encourage those who can to give more, this is, nevertheless, exactly the template for giving that Jesus criticised (see Matthew 23:23, where Jesus scolded the Pharisees for tithing but not acting with justice and mercy towards the needy).

The amount of money we can afford to give to help others will vary considerably on our circumstances. As young adults, we may have very little to spare, and as parents with young children we could often do with a helping hand ourselves; but as we get older and often earn more as we gain promotion, have less outgoings when our children leave home and pay off the mortgage on our home, then we may have far more money available to give and share with others.

In his Second Letter to the Corinthians, Paul advised the Gentile Christians in Corinth to give as much as they could afford (see 2 Corinthians 8:10-14). And in his letter to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, James advised them that "caring for orphans or widows who need help" is the kind of "religion" that God accepts as "pure and without fault."

Jesus, incidentally, never advocated 'tithing' though, as a Jew, he probably followed the Jewish customs of his day. How much we give to the church and to other Christian charities should be up to us to decide according to our own wealth and our own circumstances; and we should give to others not expecting any reward, but because we're following God's example of blessing others by sharing the gifts that God has freely bestowed on us.

You can read more about Jesus's radical teachings @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/…/…/paying-taxes-to-caesar/…

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