11/9/03, Pledge Sunday, P22B

“gratitude for giving”
Mark 12: 38-44

Today’s story from the New Testament Gospel of Mark, preserves the beautiful example of a widow who did not tithe the 10% that was expected, but practiced the 100% plan, she gave all she had which was just two mites, about a penny.

“Jesus sat down and watched people putting money into the treasury. Many rich folks put in large amounts. A poor widow came and put in two mites. Jesus called his disciples and said to them, ‘This poor widow has put in more than all who were contributing. The others have contributed out of abundance, but she out of poverty has given all she had to live on." (v. 41-44, para)

The plight of widows was especially sensitive to Jesus because his mother was a widow. Since a widow could not inherit her husband’s property, as the first born son, Jesus had probably been responsible for his mother’s welfare. This may be one reason that Jesus’ teachings raised the level of women in society. In today’s story Jesus places the widow ahead of all those who were at the Temple. She gave all she had even out of poverty. He may have been recognizing that most of the time women have a more sensitive and giving nature. Typically, women seem more open to spiritual things. Over the Christian centuries women have been the ones who have led the way in attendance, involvement in church programs and in Christian Stewardship. In most local churches women are the major decision makers when it comes to giving and tithing.

Jesus seems to be recommending the 100% plan; or at least He hopes that we can get to the point where we are willing to give it all up for His Kingdom. The old preachers used to challenge us to be willing to consecrate all we are and all we have to follow Jesus. It is by our willingness to give up our worship of money that we are often entrusted with larger amounts of money that can be used to further the work of Christ’s Church. We are called to give our all as a “Living Sacrifice to God.”

Money in itself is not evil although, just in case, we pray a prayer of sanctification over our offering plates each Sunday. When I worked at a cotton mill one summer between my sophomore and junior years of college I was put on the loading docks to stack heavy cartons onto railroad boxcars along side strong men who had been on the docks for years. I had just been called to preach and wanted to show off my recently acquired knowledge of the Bible. One day I said to a group of men, “You fellows do know that money is the root of all evil.” “No sir!” a retort came back; The Bible says that, ‘The Love of money is the root of all evil.”

I have known many Methodists who have made a lot of money, but have also had a lot of “gratitude for giving.” They have sincerely been grateful for the privilege to give back to God a portion of the magnanimous amount that He had allowed them to shepherd wile on earth. I have also known a lot of dear folks, who have pledged only a small amount, but it was their tithe, and in God’s sight they were giving just as much as the one who had given so much out of abundance. Tithing levels the field between rich and poor.

Your Pledge Card is just as important as anyone’s, if it is later translated into actual money. A thief stole a bank bag at the Lutheran Church in Augusta one Sunday afternoon, which was filled with One hundred thousand dollars--- in pledge cards. Police were able to apprehend the perpetrator after he phoned church members urging them to mail him the money.

Money is just ink on paper which is given a value by a government. We can take it and use it for good are bad. Isn’t God good that he has given us a lot to give back to His Church?

Our level of generosity is a distinguishing benchmark of our relationship with Christ and His Church. Giving magnanimously is a great joy to those for whom Christ has done so much. We give with gratitude because He has done so much for us. Most of us feel that we have what we have today because of Christ’s blessing on our lives. If it were not for our salvation we do not know how we would have come this far. Thus, we give with cheerful and grateful hearts. Our motives are purely to build up His Church so that others can be reached, just as we were.

It will be a beautiful sight at the end of our worship service as we join in the pageantry of bringing our Pledge Cards to the Altar as we sing the hymn, “I Surrender All.” If the widow from today’s story were here she might bring all she had as a challenge to us. Some will pledge far more than a tithe, some will be moving toward a tithe. Some will tithe on their gross income, some on the amount they net after taxes, and other payroll deductions. The challenge is to pledge and give more than you think you can.

I know that we all do feel a great sense of gratitude for being able to give. We are fortunate to have a lot to contribute. Tonight we will reassemble at The Maple Street Mansion for supper and a Victory Celebration. Together we will insure that we will reach our goal by 6:00 PM. It will be a great occasion.

Indeed, we have “gratitude for grace,” as we saw in saw it experienced by Bartimaeus two Sundays ago. We also have “gratitude for glory,” which was our theme for All Saints Sunday last week as we remembered Jesus calling Lazarus from the tomb. Today we express our “gratitude for giving,” as we follow this widow who gave all she had.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
11/9/03, Pledge Sunday, P22B