The 6th Sunday after Pentecost July 16, 2006
1 Corinthians 4:1-2
742 (TLH 39), 789 (TLH 428), 772 (TLH 496), 788 (TLH 439)
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”
In the name of Christ Jesus who has called us to be His ambassadors, dear fellow-redeemed:
During the past few weeks we have been using God’s Word to focus on our lives of evangelism. Through the account of the Apostle Paul’s conversion we saw that The Gospel is a Miracle Worker. We were reminded that the Gospel is for everyone. There is no screening process or pre-test to determine with whom we should or should not share the Gospel. We have been cautioned to Beware the Road to Empty Worship and were reminded that we make use of the Gospel for the sake of souls, not merely as an external activity. We have learned that above all else The Gospel is a Message of Forgiveness. The message of our Savior’s gracious forgiveness is witnessed as we speak His Word but also in our lives as we forgive others.
Today, with the direction of God’s Word and the blessing of His Holy Spirit, we seek to take these evangelism truths and bring them home to rest in each of our hearts personally.
Each one of us, individually, has been made an ambassador for Christ. Each one of us, individually, has been given the message to proclaim. We have each been made a steward of the mysteries of God—those wonderful truths that can only be revealed by the Holy Spirit. We have each been made a caretaker and user of the powerful Word of God. The treasure of the Gospel has been entrusted to us—weak sinners, earthen vessels easily broken (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7)—so that the power and glory may be of God and not of us.
Today we turn to the example of a woman making her offering to the temple treasury. We seek to use her example as we consider that each one of us is a steward of the mysteries of God. Today’s theme is very personal. It is not you, plural—though that is also true; but it is you singular, you personally, you individually are A Steward of the Mysteries of God I. A believing heart responds to its salvation and II. A faithful heart serves its Savior (Evangelism Truth: Evangelism is personal stewardship of the mysteries of God).
“Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.” [vv.41-42] To describe these two mites as two pennies of our day may not even do justice to the smallness of their worth. They were tiny, very invaluable coins, but the woman put two of these mites into the temple treasury. It is what she had.
If we consider this woman’s situation it is amazing that she gave anything at all. She had no one to support her. She had no Social Security or other government program. She was a widow and she was poor. She could have undoubtedly spent her time, resources, and money—small as they were—in other ways. This woman could have easily concluded, “What is the point in giving these two mites? They are so small they won’t do much good anyway.” Yet, she gave. She gave because, as the Apostle Paul says, “The love of Christ compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14).
The woman gave because she treasured her Savior. She was a believer in the Old Testament Scriptures. We aren’t told if she had heard Jesus’ preaching, or if she knew Him and believed that He was the promised Messiah; but she certainly knew her Savior through the Old Testament words and promises of God. She believed in the coming Messiah. She treasured the salvation He would bring. As a result, she brought her gift to God. She brought her gift because her heart believed in the great gift that God had given her.
In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul wrote, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). He who had all power and glory as the eternal Son of God became poor. For us He became a man and humbled Himself. For us He became obedient to death even the death of the cross (cf. Philippians 2:1ff). This news of salvation is what moved the woman to give.
Paul continued in the next chapter of his letter, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). The amazing gift of a poor widowed woman was a gift from the heart. What has Christ done for the heart of a sinner? He has redeemed that heart and bought it back from sin and death—eternal destruction. The heart of the woman believed in the truth of her salvation and responded by giving to the Lord. She offered her sacrifice of thanksgiving (cf. Psalm 116).
There are other examples in Scripture of people whose hearts also responded to their salvation. There hearts responded in different ways but for the same reason. Naaman, was a captain in the Syrian army who was healed from leprosy by the prophet Elijah. After he was healed and knew the true God Naaman asked if he might take soil from Israel. Naaman wanted Israelite soil so that when he worshipped the true God in his homeland of Syria he could do so on the soil of the people of God (cf. 2 Kings 5:17).
The shepherds who heard the angel’s announcement on the first Christmas night responded by immediately going to see the newborn Jesus. After they had seen Jesus they responded further by telling everyone what they had heard and seen (cf. Luke 2:17).
Zacchaeus, the tax collector of small stature who climbed a tree to see Jesus passing by, repented of his past sins. In response to the forgiveness he received from Jesus Zacchaeus was willing to give half of all that he had to the poor and to return anything he had stolen four-fold (cf. Luke 19:8).
The believing heart responds. We are stewards of the mysteries of God. The woman whom Jesus observed in the temple had the mystery. She understood it. She had the joy of a heart forgiven, and she responded.
Our first goal as stewards of the mysteries of God is to know the mystery and to treasure it in our hearts. We learn to know the mystery and will treasure it all the more when we delve into God’s Word. Each one of you is a steward of the mysteries of God. That makes it a personal responsibility to go into Scripture. It is not anyone else’s responsibility to dig deeply into Scripture for you. It is your personal responsibility to know the mysteries of God of which you have been made a steward.
God tells you to always be ready to give a defense of the reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15). No one else can do this for you. No one else can give a defense for the hope that is in you because it is your heart. Your heart believes when it hears the Gospel. Your heart leaps for joy at the news of sins forgiven. Your heart believes and puts its trust in Christ. Your heart responds. Your heart needs the nurturing of the Gospel. Your heart treasures the mysteries of God, no one else can do it for you.
Imagine reading an article that tells you about the benefits of good cardiovascular exercise at least three days each week. You read about the benefits and think, “Oh! I need that!” Then you find someone else to do the exercise for you. No matter how much the other person exercise on your behalf, it will do you know good. You have to do the exercise to receive the benefit to your body. You, personally, are a steward of the mysteries of God. Knowing the mysteries, growing in understanding, treasuring the Gospel is a personal responsibility. The stewardship of these mysteries is your personal response to God’s grace and salvation.
As amazing as it is that the woman in the temple gave anything at all, it is even more amazing that she gave everything she had. “[Jesus] called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” [vv.43-44]
The woman’s heart felt the need to respond. She wanted to serve her Savior, but how could she do it…and with what? She had very little subsistence monetarily, but what she had she gave in service to her Lord.
Jesus’ comments about the rich who gave out of their abundance do not necessarily mean that the rich were not giving out of love for their Lord. Nor does Jesus suggest that we should automatically give everything we own to the temple treasury. Rather, Jesus points to what the woman did—not the amount, but what she did. The woman sacrificed what she had for her Savior. The gifts brought by the rich were no sacrifice. They gave out of their abundance. But for the woman it was a sacrifice. It was all that she had. She had nothing else.
It doesn’t take any trust to give God our leftovers. If I fulfill all my desires and still have something leftover and then give that to God, what have I sacrificed? What trust is involved? None! The woman sacrificed and trusted that the Lord would provide what she needed. She didn’t worry about tomorrow. She didn’t worry about what she would put on or what she would eat. She sought first the kingdom of God and completely trusted that all of the other things would be added to her (cf. Gospel reading).
In his letter to the Romans, Paul encourages us: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 1:2). God calls upon us to sacrifice for Him, to make our lives living sacrifices.
Our sacrifice for God begins by sacrificing sin and everything that our sinful flesh wants to hang onto. The early church father, Augustine, was a pagan in his early life. He had a mistress. He pursued every desire and immoral urge of his sinful flesh, but he became a child of God through the Gospel. Eventually, Augustine became a bishop in the church. Later Augustine looked back on his life and remembered the earlier days. He said, “How could I give up my sins? I liked them! I loved them too much. I enjoyed pursuing them!”
When we think of sacrificing for our Savior and responding with a heart of love, it begins by sacrificing ourselves to sin, cutting sins off even though we like them, cutting them off even though it hurts. Sacrificing our sins is the response of a forgiven heart that treasures its Savior.
We sacrifice for our Savior and we serve Him when we sacrifice our agenda for God’s. We may pursue things that are moral but still do it on our terms. Then are not serving in every possible opportunity which the Lord provides for us. Rather than serve ourselves and pursue our goals first, the responding heart serves its Savior by seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteous, His goals, His will. The believing heart conforms its life to God’s will rather than living life according to its will and then fitting in God’s Word and worship and service wherever we might be able to find room.
Jesus’ commission to make disciples of all nations is a personal commission to each one of us. There is a great variety of ways in which we can serve Him and work toward that goal of evangelizing—sharing the Good News. We faithfully serve our Savior when we sacrifice our desires, look for the gifts and abilities that God has given us, and then use them to His glory and in service to Him and His Word.
You will recall the parable of Jesus in which He told of a man who divided an amount of money among his servants. The servants were to be stewards of the money while their master was away. Each servant received a different amount. Two of the servants invested the money and returned a double amount to their master. But the third servant buried his money and returned just the amount he had been given. The master angrily rebuked the lazy and wicked servant who had done nothing with what had been entrusted to his care and keeping. He didn’t serve his master.
The response of thankfulness is to seek out our gifts, our opportunities, our resources, and then sacrifice the desire to use them for ourselves and instead faithfully use them for our Lord.
This service to Christ is not one that is required by compulsion: “If you don’t do it, look out!” Rather, this is the response of thanks. The heart that believes in its Savior responds by making use of all that God has given us to proclaim and to share the mysteries of God.
I address each one of you individually: You are a steward of the mysteries of God. That awesome Word and all of its blessing has been entrusted to your keeping. Share the good news day to day. Amen.
Editor’s Note: This week’s sermon is the fourth in a five sermon series concerning evangelism.
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