Monday, December 15, 2014

The Discipline of Giving. Alive Student Ministry 12/14/14

"The Discipline of Giving”
Read Mark 12:41-44

Intro: Are you willing to give sacrificially for God?

After teaching in the Temple, Jesus sat and watched the people as they placed their offerings into the Temple coffers. He observed many rich individuals giving large amounts of money, and He watched as one widow gave the entirety of what she had—two lepta, which equaled less than a current penny. She lacked the resources to give extravagant sums or lavish gifts to God. Although her circumstances were desperate, she had a Heavenly Father who saw her needs, who was always with her, and who loved her. She responded to God with great faith and devotion. The song “What You’ve Done to Me” by Needtobreathe is about a breakup. The chorus says, “I could never get over what you’ve done to me.” This girl changed the boyfriend forever in certain ways. In an even GRETER and more important way, when we enter into a relationship with Christ, He completely changes our life. When you think about all that Christ has sacrificially done for you, is it something that you can “get over”? How do you respond to God’s love and to Christ’s sacrifice for you?

Want to know what somebody loves and cherish? Look how they spend their TIME and MONEY. 

1. Our giving is a testimony to what our hearts value (Mark 12:41–43).
In the preceding passage (Mark 12:38–40), Jesus had exposed a group of Israel’s religious leaders for their pretentiousness—the very people who were supposed to be examples for Israel were showing off by their religious actions while stealing from the poor at the same time. In contrast, this widow did not show off or seek recognition from others for her actions. Instead, she gave all that she had to the Lord. While the amount of the widow’s offering was not significant compared to the rich givers, her heart was. Her giving demonstrated that she valued obeying God’s commands and wanted to do everything that she could to be part of His work. Christ observed the widow’s sacrifice while the disciples and possibly others in the Temple witnessed her actions. We never know who is watching us. Would others know that we value Christ and caring for others by our actions? What do people think about God and about His followers when they see how we live? Do we make much of God or much of ourselves in the way that we live?

2. We are called to give even when doing so is uncomfortable (Mark 12:43–44).
The widow carried two lepta, which was enough money to purchase a meager meal or a small handful of flour. Although she could have saved one, she chose to give both. While other givers in the Temple that day possessed enough money to give and then have a comfortable amount left over, she gave all that she had. She didn’t just give out of what was left over—she sacrificed her comfort so that she could present an offering to the Lord. Her devotion to the Lord motivated her offering, and her sacrifice pleased the Lord. Made me think of Toy Story 3. A boy named Andy was leaving home to go to college. He wants to take his favorite toy, Woody, with him. But Woody chooses to give up going to college with Andy in order to rescue his friends and give them a better life as a toy. He sacrifices his personal desires in his effort to help others. This sacrifice requires him to give all that he has. In our world, we often don’t have to sacrifice much in order to worship God or help others. However, we always should ask ourselves, “How much more could I do?” If we gave up a movie a month or a soft drink a week or that newest iPod model, we could give more to helping widows, orphans, and poor in the world. What are you willing to sacrifice for the Lord’s sake? The widow had two coins. What do you have? The willingness to sacrifice and the act of sacrifice distinguish a wholehearted Christ-follower from a mediocre believer. Christ didn’t call us to be comfortable; He called us to be obedient.

Conclusion: Christ-followers are marked by selflessness and sacrifice. After noting this woman’s sacrifice to His disciples, Jesus left the Temple, and within that same week He died on the cross. He gave His all, and He requires that His followers do no less. Christ wants it all––all that you are and all that you have. Are you willing to sacrifice everything that you have in order to follow Him? Will you respond to Him and to what He has done for you with wholehearted faith and devotion?


There are many examples of giving and many teachings about giving within the Bible, ranging from traditional tithing to selling all of one’s own possessions to give to the poor. As people who tend to be extremely focused on ourselves, giving is not only a lost discipline but also one that we often resist with every fiber of our being. What we want students to discover in this lesson is that, regardless of the amounts or the recipients, biblical giving is marked by two distinct qualities: selflessness and sacrifice. 

Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of all the Gospels and is often considered by scholars to be the first Gospel written. Although the Gospel doesn’t list an author, ancient Christian tradition asserts that John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, wrote the Gospel in association with Peter. Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 12–13). Yet for some unknown reason Mark left the missionary party and returned home. Mark’s decision was the cause of a great dispute between Barnabas and Paul, which led the two men to venture separately on missionary journeys. Later, however, Mark became an indispensable helper to Peter and Paul (1 Peter, 2 Tim. 4:11).
The early Church identified the writing and destination of Mark’s Gospel in and to Rome. Not only the New Testament but early Christian tradition as well supports the idea that Peter and Mark were together in Rome. Since Peter likely died in the Neronian persecution in A.D. 64/65, then the Gospel would have been dated before that time period. The date of the Gospel is often considered to be in the mid- to late-50s, although mid-60s is also feasible. While Mark probably had more than one purpose in writing, one of his primary goals was to acquaint Gentiles with the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus in order that Gentiles would be compelled to become disciples of Christ by having an intimate relationship with Him.
Persons who give large gifts to the church often receive a great deal of recognition for their generosity. There is certainly nothing wrong with expressing gratitude to wealthy persons who bring significant monetary gifts to the church. Jesus never had a negative word to say about generous persons; in fact, He encouraged generosity. Also, giving is often noted as a spiritual gift. However, Jesus did put the issue of giving in its proper perspective. As He sat down near the Temple area where people brought their offerings, He noticed that many rich persons brought large sums of money. Then He noticed a poor widow who gave two small copper coins—an approximate value of less than a penny. Without criticizing the generosity of the wealthy, Jesus commended this woman for her sacrificial gift. He remarked to His disciples that her gift was more valuable than others because she had given gave sacrificially, while others had merely given out of what was left over. Jesus used this event to set forth His key principle of giving: that the sacrificial gift is the most precious of all.
Mark 12:41 Jesus had been teaching in Jerusalem when He arrived at the area of the Temple where the crowds brought their offerings. The Temple treasury seems to have been located against one of the walls in the area around the Court of Women, beyond which only Jewish men could go. No Gentiles—either men or women––were allowed to enter the Court of Women. The Court of Women was more than 200 feet square. Inside this court lay the Court of Israel, where only Jewish men were allowed to gather. The treasury evidently consisted of 13 trumpet-shaped receptacles or Shofar-chests. The receptacles were narrow at the top and wide at the bottom in order to keep unscrupulous persons from taking money out rather than putting money in. Individuals could deposit the half-shekel Temple tax in the treasury as well as bring voluntary offerings.
Jesus sat down on a bench near the Court of Women, opposite these receptacles, to watch as people brought their offerings. He noticed many wealthy persons who brought large amounts and placed them into the receptacles. What great noise these rich givers must have made as they threw many coins into the treasury. In fact, when Jesus described the conduct of those who sought glory by the sounding of a trumpet when they gave alms to the poor, He was likely referring to the sound that the trumpet-shaped receptacles made when wealthy and ostentatious persons deposited numerous coins in them (see Matt. 6:2). There were no instances in ancient Judaism in which trumpets were actually blown as people deposited their offerings in the Temple treasury.
Mark 12:42 While Jesus watched the wealthy deposit their ample offerings, He noticed a poor widow give two small copper coins that together only equaled a fraction of a penny. That the widow had two coins is significant, as she could have easily kept one for herself. The two coins that the widow gave were two lepta. The lepton was the smallest coin in circulation in Palestine and was only worth 1/64 of a denarius, a day’s wages for the common laborer. The lepton was not in circulation in the western part of the Roman Empire where Mark penned his Gospel, so he explained the value of the two small coins to his readers. They were hardly worth anything.
It is unlikely that the vast majority of persons in the Temple area paid any attention to this ordinary woman who performed a very mundane action. Yet this is the type of person who usually caught the attention of Jesus. Jesus had a special interest in the common person who sought to obey God humbly and without great fanfare. On the other hand, He had harsh words of judgment for the elites in society who were greedy and refused to care for the disadvantaged.
Mark 12:43–44 As He customarily did, Jesus used a very ordinary event to deliver a profound truth. That He called His disciples to Him suggests that this lesson was intended especially for them. Of course, Jesus’ message applies to subsequent disciples as well. What were two practically worthless coins in comparison to the great gifts of the wealthy? Jesus wanted His disciples to be as generous as the widow but to avoid ostentatious display. Thus, Jesus shared with them that it is not important how much one gives but the extent to which the gift is a sacrificial one. The widow gave in such a way that she had nothing left. The other givers gave out of what was left over—out of their abundance. There was little consequence to their giving because they had plenty. The widow, however, gave even when it “hurt.”
Jesus wanted His disciples to understand and appreciate the total commitment to the Lord that the widow’s gift represented. Although the widow had nothing substantive to give to the Lord, she gave everything that she had. The widow possessed an attitude of complete dependence and trust in the Lord. That attitude is what the Lord requires of those who will follow Him. The call to follow the Lord is a call for one to surrender fully to the Lord. Although Jesus commended the widow for her sacrificial giving, He wasn’t teaching that He required every disciple to give away everything. At the same time, Jesus affirmed those who gave freely and liberally.
The sacrificial gift of the widow served as a beautiful image of the sacrificial act of Jesus. While the widow gave everything that she owned, Jesus gave His life on the cross to save those who would put their trust in Him. Paul put it well in his second letter to the church at Corinth when he indicated that, although Jesus was rich, He became poor for the sake of all people––through Jesus’ poverty, humanity became rich (2 Cor. 8:9).
Many Christians give of their time, talents, and money to the Lord. Most of us who give financial gifts to the Lord, however, do so out of our abundance. We can probably have all our needs met and enjoy certain luxuries and still make regular financial gifts to the Lord. Certainly, the Lord desires that we give regularly and cheerfully. There is nothing wrong with making sure that our families are fed and clothed, but the Lord loves it when we give sacrificially and selflessly. The Lord calls upon us to give generously, selflessly, and without calling attention to ourselves. We should follow the example of the poor widow and discover ways to give sacrificially.
Students might not have a lot of money at their disposal, but most of them also have food, clothing, and shelter provided for them. When they are able to give, help them to see that giving sacrificially might mean giving up a new music album or a meal at a restaurant. They can also give sacrificially by using gift-getting opportunities such as birthdays or Christmas to request gifts for others instead of for themselves. How can you help students identify ways to give selflessly? Is it possible to give sacrificially if one is not poor? Help them to see that sacrificial giving is intentional and pleasing to the Lord.

Small Group Questions: 
  If you do not have money to give, what else can you give to your church and community?
  • Why is it easier to give out of abundance? Why is it harder to give when you have little?
  • How do you know if your heart is in the right place when you give?
  • Does Jesus dislike people who have a lot of money?

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