By Dr. Charles Stanley
Are you generous? Maybe you feel that giving liberally is a luxury you can’t afford. Yet the most generous financial gift mentioned in Scripture had very little monetary value. Often called “the widow’s mite,” this small gift has inspired believers through the ages to give freely. Let’s look at the message conveyed by this sacrificial gift.
Read the passage in Mark 12:41-44.
The True Measure of a Gift
Because Jesus saw the hearts of everyone, He knew these rich people weren’t committed to God (Mark 12:41). They carefully observed the external requirements of their faith, including tithing (see Luke 11:42). But their devotion to the Lord was almost non-existent. They gave to be praised by men.
- What did Jesus say about those who give to earn people’s admiration (Matt. 6:1-4)?
- Do you ever fall into the trap of giving primarily for the approval of others? Why do you think this is?
The widow gave “two small copper coins, which amount to a cent” (Mark 12:42). The King James version refers to them as “mites.” Although we can’t calculate their exact value in today’s money, we know these were the smallest coins used by the Jews at the time.
- What is surprising about how Jesus viewed the widow’s contribution (Mark 12:43-44)?
This passage teaches that God considers the motive, attitude, and financial condition of the giver when determining the gift’s value.
- What should our attitude be, according to 2 Corinthians 9:7?
- Does this describe your emotions with regard to giving? Why or why not?
The Adam Clarke Commentary says that “the poorest person has it in his power to make his mite as acceptable to the Lord, by simplicity of intention, and purity of affection, as the millions given by the affluent.”
- How does this fact motivate you to give generously?
The widow gave “all she had to live on” (Mark 12:44). In other words, the widow forfeited the money that would have bought food for the day. Her gift demonstrated amazing trust in God.
Imagine you lost your wallet and needed to buy gas in order to make it home. If you found a five dollar bill in your pocket, would you give it away to a street beggar, trusting God to provide a way for you to get home? Although this illustration isn’t perfect, it gives you some idea of how the widow may have felt.
- Have you ever been completely without money for the things you needed on a particular day? How did that make you feel?
Sacrificial Financial Giving
Those who have an abundance usually spend it on themselves--better possessions, nicer vacations, or upgraded homes or cars. Or they may pay for more services and conveniences.
Those with financial shortages often resist giving to the Lord’s work or to those less fortunate. They cling to what little they have, fearing there won’t be enough if they give.
- Do you see yourself as one who has an abundance of wealth (money and/or goods) or a shortage?
No matter which category you fall into, as a believer, you are called to be generous. Even the poor should give to the church and other people in need (Eph. 4:28). This is contrary to worldly wisdom, which says not to give if you have a shortfall. But poverty is not an excuse to hold back.
Jesus commended the widow for giving, though she had almost nothing. Each person should give in proportion to his or her income (1 Cor. 16:1-2).
- Are you charitable toward those who are less fortunate than you? How?
- How did the Macedonian church give (2 Cor. 8:2,3)?
- Do you ever give sacrificially? Explain.
- How could you arrange to give up something you want (or have) in order to help spread the gospel or provide for the material needs of another?
Matthew Henry, an eighteenth century pastor, wrote, “When we can cheerfully provide for others, out of our own necessary provision . . . and trust God to provide for us some other way, this is thank-worthy.”
Other Types of Giving
Although this study has focused on financial giving, we are called to be generous in every way—even when we feel weak and needy ourselves. We should extend things such as respect, time, expertise, comfort, material goods, and friendship. The Bible tells us that "A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Prov. 11:25 NIV).
- What do you think are your greatest non-monetary gifts?
- How can you use them to bless others?
Prayer: No matter what your situation, God wants you to use your resources to advance His kingdom. As you finish this study, ask Him to reveal ways you can give generously. Pray for grace to follow through on His commands, and trust Him to provide all that you need.
Note: Many Bible verses promise that God rewards those who give (2 Cor. 9:11; Prov. 11:24). But remember that not all generous Christians become rich. The Lord may repay our giving by blessing us financially, spiritually, emotionally, or in eternity (Matt. 6:19-20).
During these difficult economic times, many people are thinking about their finances. The national debt, high gas prices, and a struggling housing market are causing people to re-evaluate their financial plans. But do their plans match those of the Lord? God’s plans are the very best, and in His Word, He has given us the wisdom we need to avoid the bondage of debt and attain His blessings. (Watch A Financial Plan.)
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