Pentecost 24, 2015
1 Kings 17:8-16 & Mark 12:38-44
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Last week in our Bible Study after church we read and discussed the Biblical account of Cain and Able. They both gave offerings to God. Cain brought fruits of the soil and Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. God looked with favor on Able's offering but not Cain's offering. Cain was jealous and in anger killed his brother Able.
The truth is that God did not need either offering. The reason God looked with favor on one offering and not the other...was a heart issue. Able gave the best to God out of love and faith in the promised Savior. Cain gave to meet a requirement and lacked faith in God's promises.
"And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44)
This text is about a heart issue! Yes, the wealthy gave much in offerings. The Pharisees made sure they were seen giving their tithe to the Temple. But they all had much to give. They didn't give out of love for God. They gave to be seen and praised for their giving. But the poor widow...she gave out of love; she gave from the heart; she gave all that she had! There was no money left...nothing. She gave God the best she had and put Him first rather than keeping something for herself...to buy a morsel of bread. She risked starvation out of love for God. How do we compare?
What a text to have in preparation for next Sunday's Voter's Meeting. What a text to have as we know that we will certainly be having a lengthy discussion about our Congregation's finances. What a text to have in consideration to our being -$17,000.00 on the year compared to our budget. I cannot use the word hate (it is a severely harsh word) so I will say this: "I severely dislike" preaching about the Congregations finances...about stewardship; for two reasons: 1) I am the biggest expense when it comes to these finances. 2) I am just as guilty of not giving all I can to the work of God's Church.
But our text speaks to these issues! Dear brothers and sisters in Christ...we all could give more. We could all learn from Able...and the widow in our text. Listen again to God's Word.
"Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” (1 Kings 17:9-12)
Elijah was on the run. The King of Israel and his men were searching for Elijah to kill him. God sends him to a widow. He asks the widow for food and drink. The widow only had enough flour for one final meal with her son. They had nothing else. Just enough for one meal...and this man asked for that! What gall it must take to ask someone so desperately poor to give all they had left! But this was no ordinary man. This was the Prophet of God. Elijah knew to trust in God.
"And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’” And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah." (1 Kings 17:13-16)
God will provide. God provided for Elijah. God provided for the widow and her household. God provides. God provides for all of our needs and even provides many of our wants. God provides by giving us talents and the ability to work. God provides by giving us opportunities to use our gifts. God provides by giving seed to plant, rain and sunshine to grow, and a harvest to rejoice in. And I don't just mean the harvest of grain...but the harvest of men and women, young and old, family and friends.
God provides all that we have. He gives us food to eat, a house and home, family and friends. God provides...He provides through His people; through you and me. Stewardship is a heart issue. It's a love issue. It's a faith issue. Stewardship is about giving money but it's much more than that... it's about giving time; it's about praying, it's about volunteering, it's about lending an ear to listen, it's about giving a helping hand, it's about giving a hug and loving others...even doing so for your enemy.
The truth is that Stewardship isn't about you keeping the Church going. It's about God keeping both you and the Church going through His gifts and blessings. What a wonderful privilege it is that God uses you to do His work. What a joy it is to share the love of Christ with our treasures, time, and talents! What a blessing it is to have others that love us so much that they do everything to help us in our time of need. That love; the love that comes from faith, is a beautiful reflection of God's love for us in Christ Jesus.
Stewardship. It's a heart issue. It's a faith issue. It's about giving out of love all that we can because we know that God will always provide! God gives us the very best. He provides His Son to die that we would be saved and have everlasting life. He gives us faith in the waters of baptism. He feeds and sustains us each day; this very day...through His Word and Jesus' very body and blood. God truly provides for us! And He provides through us. You, dear brothers and sisters, are a blessing to this Church; to one another; to me; and to the world around you. You are a blessing of love and mercy through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.