Two Very Small Copper Coins
Key Verse 12:42
“But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.”
The Bible scholar Jesus counseled was supposed to be a shepherd to the people of God— someone who was not only familiar with the Bible, but also able to point the way to eternal life and to the Kingdom of God. But through Jesus’ discourse with him and later in the temple courts it was apparent that even this genuine Bible scholar could not lead anyone to heaven. And here’s why! According to Jesus he was close enough to stand outside the gates of heaven but not inside. (12:34) And this apparently happens to many. The man loved the Bible truth and pursued it. But when he found it, it seems he didn’t take it to heart. He ended up knowing a lot about God and about the Bible, but the trouble is that he didn’t have a relationship with God— he did not know God personally. Christians talk a lot about knowing God personally. [For example, even in the Old Testament, Abel knew he couldn’t have a relationship with God, so the Bible tells us that he came to God by faith. This means that in Abel’s heart Abel knew that no one, including himself, can make a relationship with God on his own nor is anyone, including himself, worthy enough to have a relationship with God, and that only God himself can extend his hand of mercy to a sinner like himself to have a relationship with him. So the Bible tells us that Abel came to God by faith. And what that means is like saying: “I know I am unworthy of you. I know I do not deserve forgiveness. I know I do not deserve a relationship with you. I know I can’t have one no matter how hard I try, even if I try to be as good as I can. You are God and I am nothing but a sinner, the son of a sinner. But I really want to have a relationship with you God, please accept me. Here I come to you, I have nothing with me to offer you. I believe that are loving and forgiving, and willing to take me into a relationship with you. Well, then….That’s what “Abel came to God by faith” means…. That’s the bulk of it isn’t it] The man knew so much about God but didn’t know how to have a relationship with God. He didn’t know how to do that! He thought that he could have a relationship with God just because he knew a lot about him. Well that’s bogus! It doesn’t work. Jesus told him “you’re not far. Take a step of faith”.
The man also knew that he must love God with his whole heart…. That’s what he agreed with Jesus to be the most important commandment. But he knew that he couldn’t make his heart love God like that. So he pretended to love God by doing many things for God, until he began to think that he loved God the way God wanted him to love him. But he had examples in the Bible he could have followed. [David’s early Psalms tell us that David grew up as a man who seemed to love God with all his heart and soul and mind and strength. David himself may have been under the impression that he loved God with all his heart and mind and strength! But in reality he couldn’t. When the sin of lust came into his heart, that powerful sin stole his heart away from God. And David realized that he loved himself and he loved a woman far more than he loved God. David would have died in his sin if God had not helped him. But God helped him and sent him someone to rebuke him. And only when David recognized his sin, and humbly repented before God, and asked God’s forgiveness, and took responsibility for the consequences of his own sin, did David truly show himself a man who loved God with all his heart and mind and soul and strength. Why? Because loving God with one’s whole heart is loving God’s way regardless of how difficult or painful it may be. Loving God wholeheartedly did not come from David naturally just from strumming his guitar under the starlight and composing poems in the moonlight for God. It came from God’s discipline in his life after David submitted himself to God’s will.] This Bible scholar knew that the Bible required him to love God, but he couldn’t make his heart love God. So he pretended to love God by doing all these righteous things for God. He didn’t have to pretend at all. All he had to do is to be honest with himself and with God that he couldn’t love God as he should, and then God would have helped him and showed him the way. But he couldn’t even do that! And of course, he imagined that he also loved his neighbor as himself as well. Pride and self righteousness are the number one killers of the souls of those who otherwise are usually so close to heaven! And that’s why this man stood right outside the gates of eternal life and could not enter in!
He knew many things. But had he been listening more carefully to Jesus, he would have come to know that the one speaking with him, was no ordinary teacher, but the Christ, the Messiah and the Son of the Living God. (37) The question is what should people like him do when they realize that they are standing before the Christ of God? He needed to humble himself before Jesus, fall on his knees as the countless numbers of humanity had done throughout the ages, and put his faith and trust in him. Believe what Jesus has been declaring from the beginning of his ministry: “The time has come” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” (Mk 1:15) This has been the eternal message delivered over the generations of time to all people, of all ages of all nations. It has not changed. The time is always now, not later nor tomorrow. The kingdom is ever near, as long as the grace of our Lord Jesus is still at large and abundant, God’s kingdom is ever near calling people to enter before the gates are shut forever. “Repent” is the one message that can break a hardened soul and help it acknowledge that it has offended God, but that God is willing to wipe the offense with the good news of his Son’s death and resurrection. It is a message of love and redemption. This scholar knew the Bible well. But he did not know that God loved the world so much that he was willing to give his One and Only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but shall enter the kingdom of God. This man stood outside the gates of heaven, clutching his Bible imagining that if he memorized one more verse, or prayed one more hour, he would be welcomed in heaven. Sadly many people think like this as well.
As we said, the Bible scholar really didn’t know much about loving God nor loving one’s neighbor. He knew in theory that this is the first and most important commandment. And Jesus commended him for it. But in truth he had failed to love God and to love others. Perhaps he was like those whom Jesus commented on in verses 38-40. Such people cannot possibly know how to love God.
Read verses 38-40. “As he taught, Jesus said, ‘Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.’” They were care takers of the temple, the ones in charge of keeping the heart of worship. They were the teachers of the law— which means they were responsible for giving the word of God to the people and making the will of God known to them. And this is not a small responsibility. It truly requires humility of heart. It requires loving God more than loving one’s self. Moses was a great man— a dynamic leader— a man who commanded respect and awe from people. But the Bible tells us that, “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” (Nu.12:3) But how could such a man like that be humble considering his position in history! But he could when he loved God above himself, and when he loved others as himself. Through his humility then, a whole nation of people came to know who God is. They learned to love God and to serve him. But look at what Jesus said of these teachers here! Instead of honoring God, they loved to honor themselves. They thought they were humble because they prayed very long prayers and became famous for their long prayers among the people. But when a man or woman loves themselves more than he or she loves God, and he or she honors themselves more than God that man or woman is truly proud. Jesus warns us not to seek honor for ourselves.
Read verse 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.” The place of the offering was an open place of public access. It was designed in that way by the religious community to keep an eye on all the offerings offered to the temple by the people. Public offering might have started with the intention of encouraging people to make offering a part of their spiritual lives. But in the time of Jesus it lost its purpose and became a means for those who were rich to make a public show of their false godliness. So Jesus sat there that day watching the people make their offerings to God. Jesus never showed interest in material things, nor in what was offered to God at the temple. But on this day, it was necessary to make a note of the offerings given to God. It was necessary to teach his disciples what “loving God” is and what lies “at the heart of offering”. On this day it was important to make a note of the offerings, because they are the measure of faith and love for God.
Jesus needed to teach his disciples about faith and about loving God. So he sat there opposite the place where offerings are given in order to teach his disciples a lesson that we can learn day. God tells his people in the Bible, “No one is to appear before me empty-handed.” (Ex. 34:20) It is a disgrace to appear before the King God Almighty with a half hearted, left over offering. When the people of God were called to offer for the rebuilding of the temple, they brought offerings from their hearts until the treasury was so full that Moses had to command them to stop the overflow of offering. Through that, the people revealed that their love for God was genuine. They revealed that their faith was in God and in not in their material possessions. They revealed that God Almighty is a King worthy of the best and most precious of gifts. Jesus wanted to bring his disciples to witness the offerings made at the temple to teach them the difference between loving one’s self and loving God.
Jesus pointed out the rich giving huge sums of money to the temple. As they dropped their bags of money the noise echoed throughout the temple like the sound of a trumpet. As the money dropped into the offering jar, many heads turned to see the great man who had made a huge offering. Heads turned, and murmurs of praise swept across the crowds. The rich men beamed with honor and glory, and a deep sense of holiness was felt in their own hearts as they walked away to the awe of the watching crowds— to the awe of everyone except that of Jesus. Jesus deeply understood this kind of person. This kind of person didn’t give out of his love for God— for he really didn’t love God— he gave out of his love for himself. He gave only when others were looking. When they weren’t looking, his offering was small, scarps and leftovers, change in his pocket. But today, his offering was huge. To the eyes of the poor, what this man gave was more than they could ever imagine— more than a year’s wages. But to God— who knows the hearts of all people— what this person offered God was just his excess— he offered a lot less than what he could afford. He gave out of what he had, and not out of what he did not have.
Biblically speaking, offering maybe a measure of faith and of love for God. When a man or woman love God, they do not calculate what they give to God. They give their best. Sometimes giving their best maybe painful because their best is all they have. But their offerings are accepted by God who sees their heart and accepts their love and their faith which prompted the offering. But when these people in the story gave at the temple, it really did not affect them at all. It was out of the spare of their reserves that they had given. And the honor they received through the praises of people, was all the reward they would ever get. When people don’t give God the honor he deserves, the love he deserves, and all else that God deserves, the excuse is simple— it is mostly out of greed.
Jesus sat there waiting and watching to see how what other lessons he might teach his disciples. Finally a woman came by. And Jesus’ heart and attention went fully to her. Read verses 42-44. “But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything— all she had to live on.’” Among those giving that day, there was a widow, a poor widow who had nothing to live on. She had only two pennies. She should keep them! She should buy a piece of bread so that she might not starve that day. But instead, she gave them to God. Some people might consider her to be unreasonable or out of her mind. Others might think she is fanatic! But she was neither. Simple she was a woman who loved God with all her heart and with all her soul and with all her mind and with all her strength. And she loved God more than she loved herself. She also had great faith in God. To her, offering was not a matter of whether it was convenient or comfortable or whether her human situation or circumstance allowed it. Giving to God was a matter of her faith. It was her faith expressed through love. Consider this: When you love God, you also trust God! And then you eagerly give God your whole heart, believing that your king deserves all of it, and that your king takes care of you!
Paul whose life was the embodiment of loving God and living by faith said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Phil.4:11-12) He was not a greedy man. He loved God and had learned the nature of faith. Faith depends on God. Faith loves God more than it loves itself. When a person is greedy, that person finds excuses why he or she cannot give to God. But when a person is content with what God had given them, living by faith, that person loves God and depends on God in all things. So Jesus taught his disciples the widow’s faith. She loved God more than all others. She trusted God more than all others. Her love for God was not in words, but in deed. She did not consider that God would understand why she is not giving anything to God because she was poor and had nothing. She only thought that God is her Father who has given his Son for her redemption. So he deserves her all, her two pennies, even her life if need be. She was a woman who had found the grace of God in Jesus. She was a woman whose life and actions defined faith for the generations to come. She was a woman who loved God. Let’s love God with our whole being. Let’s love God not in words but in deed. Amen.