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Little Is Much

Luke 21:1 -- 4

Lesson audio

Little is much, when God is in it:

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on."

(Luk 21:1-4 NASB)

We have, on previous occasions, taught the art of devotion. Here is a sublime example of an act of devotion; the widow is unnamed; indeed, she may never have known how her devotion was praised by the Son of God himself.

What, then, is an act of devotion? It is a gift to God from one of his children; it generally meets these criteria:

  • From the world’s point of view it seems excessive and imprudent. The social worker would have told her to hang on to that money.
  • Indeed, the world’s view would be that the sacrifice can have very little impact at all. “Why would you do that?” is the question.
  • Indeed, to the giver, the gift is a genuine sacrifice. It hurts.
  • Usually, there is the opportunity to do less. The woman had two coins; she could have put in only one.

It is a sacrifice; as David taught us by example, we should never give a sacrifice which costs us nothing.[1]

The widow is the very picture of poverty. Christ has just finished warning the crowd about those who “devour widow’s houses”; what a contrast, then, when this widow comes to make her offering to God. Therein lies the explanation. Her sacrifice:

  • Is not just to “keep the Temple going.” She is not sacrificing because her gift will be a good thing; she is sacrificing because her gift is for the Great One.
  • Is accepted by God. He honors the gift from the heart; as your heart is moved to sacrifice, so is his heart moved with love for you.
  • Is likely enough given with cheer, for God loves a cheerful giver.[2] There is a sense of joyful abandon to the devoted Christian; sacrifices are given with joy, because no other way seems right.
  • Is untainted by sin. It is interesting to note that her two small coins were acceptable as an offering for the Temple – but the thirty pieces of silver paid to Judas were not.[3]

The World’s Way

For some of us, such devotion is unknown. We are reasonable people; an act of devotion is unreasonable, or at least irreconcilable with common sense. In fact, many Christians pride themselves on the reasonableness of their giving (and their Christian lives). Why is this?

  • For many, the primary reason is that their faith is weak – or nonexistent. They cannot see how God could use such a thing. But that is the very nature of faith; it cannot see. If faith could see, faith would be sight – and therefore not faith.
  • For some, it is a lack of love. You can get a big check from them for the building fund – with the understanding that a grateful plaque goes with it. But blankets for an orphanage? Hardly.
  • Some will simply tell you, “God won’t care about my gift either way.” He cares for you; He loves you. If your small child were to bring you a gift made in Sunday School, would you be indifferent? How much more, then, the care of God Almighty!
  • Perhaps the greatest cause is this: we are forgiven little; therefore we love little.[4]

We see it as small; but “little is much when God is in it.” How does he view such a sacrifice?

  • He sees it for what it is: a mark of your love for Him. The monetary value may be small; He looks upon the heart.
  • It is not only a mark of your love, it is a mark of your faith. When you sacrifice for Him, it says that you know He will provide. Interestingly, He never promises to make you richer, nor that you will be repaid in kind – He promises to care for you. It is not an exchange of value but an exchange of love.
  • The acceptability of your gift is based not on what you give but what you have. God promises to use it in his power, and that power is very great. Do you remember the boy with the loaves and the fishes?[5]
  • Indeed, even if the gift is so small as a cup of cold water for a thirsty man, God sees it and rewards it.[6]

Examples in Scripture

It sometimes does us good to learn by example, doesn’t it? Here are a few examples from the Scripture itself:

·         Consider the building of the original Tabernacle – the tent that housed the altar and the Ark of the Covenant. All the materials for its construction were given as free will offerings – by a people wandering in the desert.[7] Some of the items were from the Mediterranean Sea; they had little or no hope of replacing them.

·         David, in his last days, prepared for the building of the Temple by his son Solomon. The gold that he gave personally was an enormous amount – something like a hundred tons of gold.[8]

·         The Macedonian churches, in extreme poverty and persecution, gave money to relieve the famine of other churches.[9]

·         Mary of Bethany, as she anointed Jesus’ feet.[10]

But there is an even greater example in the Scriptures: the example of Christ at the Cross.

The Great Sacrifice

An act of devotion, a sacrifice – these are but the imitation of Christ. If you love Him, you will follow his commandments – and his example. Consider the example of Christ at the Cross:

  • First, it is an extravagant love. The Son of God, through whom all things were made, ruler of the universe, upholder of its laws – became one of us. Human, born like we are. Dying – as we die – but in a death of shame and terrible pain. Can you imagine what this cost Him?
  • He did it not for the righteous, but for the sinners. Even the wickedest of sinners; Paul was such.[11] Despite his persecution of the church, Jesus selected him as the apostle to the Gentiles. Christ died for sinners.

This being so, and our highest duty being to imitate our Lord, what then should we do? “What would Jesus do?” as our young people put it today. How can I imitate my Lord in this? What acts of devotion are open to the Christian today? Here are a few:

  • Give him the comforts of your life. Sacrifice that which is pleasant, like sitting in that easy chair and watching TV. Sacrifice your present; when his call comes, do not say, “Later.” Do it now. Sacrifice that which is private; share your testimony of sin and redemption with those who need to hear. If you will do this for him, you will never lack for opportunity to serve in his kingdom.
  • Sacrifice things material – that aren’t tax deductible. Be a good steward and deduct what is lawful – but give without considering it. The IRS does not care how many hungry people you have fed personally. But God does.
  • Sacrifice your time. Set aside time each day – deliberately and calmly – to read the Word, to be in prayer, to be in thought over your life and His ways.
  • Combine some of these things. Go on a short term missions trip. It’s easy to say that this will have no real effect for great expense; let God see to the effect. Make the sacrifice like this.
  • There is one great area where we can be extravagant: forgiveness. Grant forgiveness to those who have grievously offended you; step up to the task of reconciliation. We are ambassadors of reconciliation; we preach the reconciliation of God. Let us practice it as well.

[1] 1 Chronicles 21:18-25

[2] 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

[3] Matthew 27:1-10

[4] Luke 7:36-50

[5] John 6:4-13

[6] Matthew 10:42

[7] Exodus 35:21-29

[8] 1 Chronicles 29:3-5. Note that the gold went into lining the walls of the building. Solid gold wallpaper.

[9] 2 Corinthians 8:1-5

[10] John 12:1-8

[11] 1 Corinthians 15:9-10

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