Tuesday, November 03, 2015

The Might of the Mite - Mark 12:38-44

Mark 12:38-44  New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

38 As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40 They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Sermon                                “The Might of a Mite”                Maynard Pittendreigh

Once upon a time there was once a man who had a disabled leg, but he was determined to walk.

And so everyday he got up, he went out and he walked.

One day he was out in the countryside and on this particularly day he went for a far longer walk than usual.  He soon realized he had become quite tired.  Exhausted even!

Fortunately, one of his friends came riding along on a race horse and the friend volunteered to let him borrow the horse while he would walk home. 

“Just be careful, though, this is kind of a peculiar racehorse. He’s been trained a bit differently than normal. When you want him to go, you don’t say, ‘Gitty Up!’ you say, ‘Praise the Lord!’ He won’t move if you say, ‘Gitty Up!’ And once you get him going, if you want to speed up, just repeat, ‘Praise the Lord!’ And then, when you want him to stop, you don’t say ‘Whoa!’ You say, ‘Amen.’ If you remember that you won’t have any problem at all.”

Grateful for his friend’s generosity the man mounted the racehorse, got comfortable in the saddle and said, “Praise the Lord” and the racehorse moved right out.

Now that he was riding the man found that he was enjoying himself so he decided to take the scenic route home and speed the racehorse up a bit as he was going so he said again, “Praise the Lord!”

As he came around a curve in a bend he saw a cliff. 

Quickly the man attempted to stop the racehorse, “Whoa!, Whoa!, Whoa!,” but the racehorse didn’t stop.

He was getting closer and closer to the dangerous edge, but he just couldn’t think of the right word.

And then, just as the horse was about to go over the edge, the man remembered the word.

AMEN, he shouted!

And the horse stopped. 

Right on the edge.

The man was able to look down the edge, and thankful that the horse had stopped, breathed a prayer to God and said, “Praise the Lord.”

And that was the last anyone ever saw of the man or the horse!

If there is anything to learn from that story it is that commitment matters! 

That horse was committed to following orders of the rider – even if it meant death. 

Pity the poor man who had failed to be committed to the instructions of which command to use when.

Commitment matters.

The New Testament lesson from Mark is a great example of commitment.

This widow makes an offering of two small coins, called MITES.  We are not talking about dust mites or little bugs – but little coins that are worth about a penny or less. 

She makes an offering at the Temple.

Now the way this was done was in the front of the entrance and lots of people would gather and watch – and listen.  This was before paper money so all people had were coins, and they would go into a large metal trumpet line container.  The more you gave the more noise it made. 

The Sadducees would love to sit around these offering devices and judge people by what they gave.  We hear a lot about Sadducees in the Bible, but there were not very many of them in the days of Jesus.  History tells us that at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry there were only about 300 in all of Israel.  However, as small as they were in number, they controlled about 70% of the wealth.

Imagine that – a small percent of the people controlling most of the wealth. 

In their Theology Sadducees did not believe in the afterlife or the resurrection, so in their mind everything of importance was in the “here and now.”  They lived only for the present.  And ‘living in the now,’ for the Sadducees, translates to an obsession with earthly wealth. In the words of the theological titan, Paul Tillich, it is their “Ultimate Concern.”

So these self-important, wealthy minority who had so much power, sat at the offering plates and watched the show. 

One person might come along and drop in 100 coins, one after another, making a big show of it.  Another would give 200 coins – everyone finding great self-centered satisfaction in what they gave. 

Now here is the thing about money – it represents power.  A Sadducee giving a lot of money would claim a lot of power in the church. 

And here comes this widow with two tiny, nearly worthless coins.  She has no power. 

But she has something more mighty than power.

She has commitment.

She gives not so that she might have power, but she gives because she is committed to her faith.

At this point, Jesus calls his Disciples over and tells them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.”

Obviously Jesus is not talking about the bottom line financially, but the bottom line spiritually. 

The rich Sadducees might give a thousand coins and not feel the impact in their wallet because they have tens or hundreds of thousands of coins.  That widow gave two small coins and she felt it – it was a challenge for her to give that amount.  Proportionately, her gift was larger than the gifts of the Sadducees. 

She did this out of a commitment.

And commitment is what Jesus is calling us to have.

That widow has shown commitment.

Have you shown commitment?

Last night I did the wedding of Jimmy and Katie Steele.  Unless you are new to the church or a visitor, you know Jimmy and Katie.  Jimmy is our Director of Youth and Family Ministries.  They made a commitment to each other in their wedding to be with each other in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, for richer or poorer.


In the first service today we had a baptism service.  In baptism parents, family, friends and even the whole church make commitments to the child to nurture that person in the faith. 


How does one measure commitment? 

Jesus never values our commitment is not based on the dollar sign, but the value in our hearts.

What is your commitment level?  Is it a small token, or is it a real, tangible, and reflective of your true heart?

When the widow dropped in her two tiny coins, the world judged her by the smallness of her offering, but Jesus valued – not judged – but valued her by the depth of her commitment.

Copyright 2015. 
Dr. W. Maynard Pittendreigh
All rights reserved

Ministers may feel free to use some or all of this sermon in their own ministries as long as they do not publish in print or on the Internet without ascribing credit to the author.