When Less Equals More

The best part of the sermon had to be my interview with Erika. 
Byron: What would you think if you saw someone putting this big pile of bills in the collection basket?
Erika: That they really love Jesus!
Byron:  Yeah, that’s a lot of money.  What would you think of a person who only put in the two penny’s?
Erika: Well, that depends.
Byron: Depends on what?
Erika: Like, maybe if it was a homeless person that would show that they really loved Jesus too.
Perhaps I should have just stopped preaching right there.

The thing that really bothers me about this text is not that Jesus commends the widow; it’s that he ignores those who put in the large amounts of money!  I’ve always been a tither; even when money got tight at home I never neglected my tithe.  I’m convinced God has blessed my family in multiple ways because of that.  However, this text ignores the tithers.  Mark tells us that there were many rich people putting large amounts of money in the temple treasury.  My guess is that they were all faithful tithers.  They were simply doing what they were supposed to do.  The truth is, they still had plenty left over.  The widow put in all she had and even though it was a minuscule amount; Jesus called attention to her gift.  “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:43-44)

I’m worried for a church that makes widows like this feel like they’re a “ministry” and puts rich young rulers in positions of leadership!  This text causes me no little discomfort. 

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Byron FikePreaching Minister

Byron has been the preaching minister at Clear Lake since 1999. He and his wife have three grown children, who have also devoted their lives to serving the Lord. In his personal time, Byron likes to read books, watch movies, and play with his little dog Willie. He also is an avid follower of Alabama football, having grown up in Tuscaloosa during the glory days of Bear Bryant.

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5 Responses to “When Less Equals More”

  1. avatar tommytwotoez says:

    Yes, the interview with Erika was awesome! I remember working with her one afternoon during Impact Week, knocking on doors. She was a very quite young lady but unafraid to share her deep feelings for Christ.

    I love this part in Mark and you’re totally right. It’s like we have been building up to this part and now that we’re here we are left with an overwhelming sense to reexamine the inner meaning of Jesus’ words.

    I think you hit the preverbal nail on the head with your statement that people who are blessed greatly are expected to give greatly without any need of personal award, all but the joy that comes from a loving action. And that’s the tick isn’t it? We don’t give just for merit, as if somehow we can earn salvation. How can you earn what is freely given?

    The widow gave from the heart, she gave because we wanted too, not out of duty or because it was expected of her, but because she absolutely loved God with every fiber of her being. Her inward attitude with God projected outward and I believe that is what Jesus saw and admired. Sure, the others gave huge amounts of tithe, but did they do it out of love for God or for themselves? Was there tithe out of the absorption for prestige or tenderness?

    I love this text because it gives me a measure of discomfort. This verse in Mark keeps my humanistic ego in check; reminds me that there is still a blessed mystery behind the aim of Jesus and his views on the true definition of meek, mild, and humble. What am I focused on, the zeros dotting the check book or the love for God in my heart?

  2. avatar Amanda says:

    I truly appreciated your humble treatment of this text, including your “non” conclusion.

    There is one thing I am wondering – we seem to put thoughts and intentions on the widow that aren't stated. We don't really know how she felt about her giving. I suppose we can assume from Jesus' positive response that she didn't feel reluctant or regretful. It seems to me that the strongest point is the sacrifice her giving represented. I don't know that any of us, at whatever economic level, are as sacrificial as she.

  3. avatar Amanda says:

    Oh, I LOVED your interview with Erika too and I love that you said you should have stopped preaching right there. :)

  4. avatar Byron says:

    Amanda, you are right that the immediate text (12:41-44) only draws specific attention to the contrast of the widow giving her all and the wealthy only giving a portion.

    The reason I put words into the widow's mouth was in keeping with the larger context of the book of Mark. I see her gift as an illustration of what Jesus had just said a few verses before this narrative, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart….” (12:30). Further, I contrasted her gift of everything with the rich man told to give everything but refused to do so (10:22). Since this story of the widow is told as the final narrative of Jesus' public ministry; I'm reading it as a summary of everything he's been saying about discipleship.

    It's sometimes a dangerous thing to put words in people's mouths! However, I felt the larger context gave me some liberty to do so.

  5. avatar stevenmaxa says:

    well said my friend. hope you and your famiy are doing well. less than a month to grandpahood. WOW! Susan and I were talking tonight about how fun it was having you go on so many trips with us (Honduras, RMDC) through the years. Looking forward to Friends Camp!!

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