Enough: An Inspiring Gift
Topic: Stewardship Scripture: Mark 12:41–12:44
What makes a good gift? How do we determine if something is a good gift or not? I think it’s pretty obvious that the cost of the gift isn’t the number one factor. Something doesn’t have to be expensive to be a great gift. My office is riddled with little trinkets and mementos and two of my favorite gifts in there cost little or nothing. One is a coloring page Isaac gave me a few years ago. It’s a Pikachu with more color outside the lines than in but it’s special to me. Another item is a tiny piece of quartz crystal. Dahlia Gaylord gave it to me a few years ago and told me she thought of me when she found it and wanted me to have it. I’m sure all of you have gifts of this kind that are precious to you. Whether it’s a piece of macaroni art or just a hand-written note, sometimes the simplest gifts are the most heart-warming. So, if it’s not what a gift costs, maybe it’s the thought put into it? Or even the gesture that’s made behind the giving of the gift? Sometimes just being able to communicate through a gift that you know the person is enough to make it a great gift. It could be searching and finding the first edition of a book lover’s favorite novel or maybe it’s giving an item autographed by someone your friend or loved one admires or respects. This stole is an example of that. My last church gave this to me because they knew that I love the Eagles almost as much as I love serving as a pastor. That’s why I’m wearing this today, by the way. It has nothing to do with the Eagles going up against the Bears this afternoon or anything like that.
But I think there is a gift that is a level above even the most sentimental or personal of gifts. I believe the rarest form of gift is An Inspiring Gift. These are the gifts that touch the heart of the receiver but also end up impacting and inspiring many others beyond and outside the initial relationship of the gift giver and the gift receiver. There’s an example of this type of gift that all of us are familiar with. In fact, some of us might have even gone out of our way to be able to see it in person. I’m talking about the Statue of Liberty.
The Statue of Liberty is An Inspiring Gift in that its impact and meaning has reached far beyond the original exchange that took place in 1885 when the steamboat arrived in New York carrying the pieces of the disassembled statue. Lady Liberty has stood as more than a monument but rather a declaration of values held tightly and passionately by our country. The broken chains at her feet are a celebration of the destruction of slavery and her raised torch beckons the weary, lost, and oppressed to come and find a home and community of belonging. Her voice declares, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” The Statue of Liberty was a gift given over 100 years ago and it is still inspiring the people and power structures of our nation. It truly is An Inspiring Gift.
I want us to look at another Inspiring Gift, one that Jesus witnessed during his time serving others. It is a much smaller gift than the Statue of Liberty when it comes to size and grandiose, but I think it possesses much the same reach as that statue on our shores. This brief but meaningful moment is found in the 12th chapter of Mark’s gospel. We’re in Mark 12:41-44.
We come to the story where Jesus is teaching in the temple courts. This was an area that had a lot of foot traffic and Jesus was surrounded by the crowds, likely made up both of everyday individuals coming in and out and around the temple, as well as religious leaders and other folks of higher social status. Before Jesus noticed the woman mentioned in our text, He had been asked for his thoughts on several important matters. Taxes paid to the reigning government, what the afterlife was like, and what the greatest commandment was. Jesus even took the time to call out and oppose the destructive, selfish practices and teachings of some of the corrupt voices of authority at the time. The last thing Jesus does before leaving the area around the temple was to call his followers and friends over to him and have them witness the act of this poor widow. One fascinating thing I discovered reading this and the surrounding chapters of Mark, and something I think that is of important note, this is the only time Jesus explicitly focuses the attention of His followers on a specific place or teaching. They were there for all the other questions, but it was only here, in the presence of this widow, that Jesus said, “Come here, I need you to see this.”
What Jesus sees here in the generosity of this widow is enough that He wants all of His closest friends to bear witness and take note. Several very wealthy people come to the treasury and drop large amounts. There is nothing in the account that paints these wealthy folks as villains. They are doing their duty, plain and simple. But this widow, she goes beyond. And I love the way Mark describes what she does. We hear that this woman “put in everything” when she made her offering. We know it wasn’t a large monetary sum but it was an offering that impressed and inspired the Son of God.
This woman gives us an example both of what our offering should be to the Lord and also what our expectation should be in God’s ability to use that which we offer up. Despite what this woman had endured and what she was currently facing, her decision was to put all of her faith and all of her hope in the steadfast goodness of God. She went all in. This wasn’t a toe-dip into the water or a comfortable seat on the fence. No, instead she offers An Inspiring Gift that became the example Jesus wanted His most devoted followers to emulate. A gift that would have an immediate impact, of course. But one that would leave a lasting impression for generations to come. It is a reminder to us that every gift we offer to the Lord can become the foundation for new inspiration and even the means for the heart of Christ to be shared.
And that’s where I want to close, my friends. Every commitment we make to our church, whether it be with our time, money, energy, or our presence, this is a proclamation and an effort made to share the most inspiring of all gifts: the life, work, and love of Jesus Christ. As a church, we exist so that the love and the truth of Jesus Christ might go further into the places and hearts where the Gospel can bring blinding transformation and incredible new life. Those places include our own zip code and distant lands like South Sudan. It includes Sunday School classrooms and hospital waiting rooms. It means living rooms filled with authentic friendship and dining rooms where the table is covered with bills and statements that seem impossible to satisfy. It means food banks, street corners, and retirement communities. We exist as a body of Christ-followers so that every person might come to encounter the Savior who has never left their side. The widow who doesn’t know how to go on. The teenager who feels like they have no place. The parent who is trying their hardest and the spouse who prays it isn’t over. We’re talking about the child who needs one more voice to tell them they are precious and the recent retiree or empty nester who wants to know their life still has purpose and meaning.
In the bulletin today, there is a Commitment Card. I want to encourage each of you to take that card home with you and use it as a physical reminder for your prayers and discernment this week. The financial commitments you make to our church for next year form the literal scope and strength of our ability to be the hands, heart, and voice of Christ in our community. I have walked with many of you for several years and I know well the generosity and the dedication you have in your hearts. I am also aware of the challenges that some of you are facing. I am not asking you to be like the rich individuals Jesus observes in Mark 12. I’m asking you to be like the widow. Consider what it is you have, consider what it is you want to see God do in and through our church. And then give from the responses you have to those considerations. Every commitment matters, no matter the size, because they all form the ability and potential for us to go out into our neighborhood and into our world and share An Inspiring Gift.