November 7th, 2021
Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.
I want to start with something funny. I wonder how many of you have made Halloween pumpkins. I think many of you have. I heard that being a Christian is like being a pumpkin. God picks you from the patch, brings you in, and washes off all the dirt. Then God cuts the top and scoops out all the yucky stuff. God removes the seeds of doubt, hate, greed, etc. Finally, God carves you a new smiling face and puts His light inside of you to shine for all the world to see. When I heard that, I was impressed. When God holds us, we will have a smiling face with his light.
Today, I want to talk about “All In.” If I say “All In,” what comes to mind? You might think of a gambler. Yes, “all in” is a word in gambling. When gamblers play poker and bet everything on one hand, they say “all in,” which means s/he is fully committed in the game betting everything s/he had. What kind of mind does the gambler have when the gambler says, “all in”? Perhaps they think that they will gain all or lose all.
When I read today’s scripture about a poor widow’s offering, the word “all in” came to mind. I wonder if she bet everything she had on God. What do you think of the widow? In today’s scripture, let us imagine and listen to what Jesus said. “Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which were worth a penny. 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. 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.”
Why did Jesus watch people give offerings to God? Was he really curious about how much they offered to God? What does Jesus want to teach his disciples through the widow’s offering? Does he want us “all in” on God like the widow or the gambler? We are curious if God wants us to give all to God. We are sure it doesn’t mean God’s will is for us to give all of our livelihood. The prophet Micah says, “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”(Micah 6:8).
If Jesus’ will is not to praise the widow’s offering, what is his will? We remember that a woman broke the jar and poured the perfume on Jesus’ head. When it happened, Jesus said, “whatever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Mark 14:3-9). That is fantastic praise. However, Jesus didn’t give any credit to the widow, except saying she gave everything to the treasury. We don’t know how the widow lived after she gave all in the treasury. However, we should know what Jesus teaches us through this passage.
To understand this passage, we should read verses 38-40. We read about two people throughout today’s scripture; Scribes and a widow. Their lives were very different. Scribes were teachers of the law, and they were greeted with respect in the marketplace. They wore expensive robes and had the best seats in the synagogue and places of honor at banquets. However, how about the widow? Widows weren’t respected or greeted, and couldn’t have a seat in any good places, and couldn’t have good clothes because they lived in poverty and were treated as sinners and outcasts by society. Through these two kinds of people, Jesus teaches us “beware of the scribes” who like to walk around in long robes, and like to be greeted with respect, and like to sit in the best seats. Moreover, Jesus said, “they devour widows’ houses.” That is, Jesus warned that scribes exploited the poor and widows at that time instead of caring for them. Jesus taught scribes about the greatest commandment right before (Mark 12:28-31), which is loving God and loving our neighbors. Scribes loved money instead of God and neighbors. Jesus taught us that we could not serve two masters. And as the example, Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). Teachers of the Law and leaders serve money, not God, even though they taught people to serve God. The leaders exploited people who served God.
We sometimes misunderstand God’s will. God gives us materials and gifts. For some, God gives more. For some, God gives less. Why does God give gifts differently? Why does God not provide everything to everyone fairly? It is because God loves us so much. If you know the joy and happiness in sharing, you know what I mean. We know the joy in sharing what is ours. That’s why we do mission work. We do the rummage sale to help others in need. We support the Food shelf/ Pantry. We collect coins for different missions. We do all these things because we know God’s love. Early Christians who were filled with the Holy Spirit sold their possessions and goods and gave them to anyone in need (Acts 2:45). God wants us to live together, practicing loving God and loving one another. Remember, Jesus came to the world to serve people, not to be served. Jesus showed us how much he loved us dying on the cross for our sins. Jesus said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
There is a story where the prophet Nathan told King David (2 Samuel 12:1-12): There were two men in a certain town. One rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little baby lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup, and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for his guest. Instead, he took the baby lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him. When King David heard that, he burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die!” And, Nathan said to him, “You are the man.” This is the story of when King David killed his servant Uriah and took his wife.
Let us reflect on ourselves through the scribes and King David; have we become dull to sense God’s will? As Christians and as Christian leaders, are we keeping a God-centered mind? What does it mean we do all in God? As the prophet Micah said, God’s will is “to act justly and to love mercifully and to walk humbly with your God.”(Micah 6:8). It is true all through God. Remember, we are like Halloween pumpkins. Only when we are held by God’s hand, can we keep the light in us to shine the world. Thanks be to God. Amen!