Watching Pennies

And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. Mark 12:42-43 ESV

Last week we had just finished our Christmas caroling time at a nursing home and began to pass out some large print Christmas devotional books as our gift to the residents. Most of them lit up with smiles and thanked us for the book, but when one of our volunteers came to a table in the back, the lady reached out and slipped three one-dollar bills into their hand. Despite urging her that she didn’t need to pay for our gift, she insisted, “No please take it! I want to give something!”

That dear lady not only reminded me of the widow in today’s verse, but she also showed me that longing to give is a basic desire of every heart. Some of us, unfortunately, have had that desire dampened by people who have taken unfair advantage of us. But Jesus never mentioned anything about how well the two little coins she contributed, were spent. What mattered to Him, was that the love she gave with, made the gift precious. None of the rich guys who went ahead of her and made a big deal of their offerings had impressed Jesus. But the small sacrifice that she eagerly gave with a pure heart was a treasure to Him. That also reminded me that whether we have gold, frankincense and myrrh or just two pennies, God sees more than pennies, and He is watching our hearts today!

Fragrance of the Sacrifice

And live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

I have often wondered about the prayer Jesus prayed in Gethsemane. The awesome power that Jesus had to command wind and waves and to raise the dead was humbled in His plea to be delivered from the cross. He could have miraculously hidden himself again or struck down a thousand soldiers by a word and yet He struggled and sweat blood as He yielded Himself to His Father’s will and the shame and suffering that lay ahead.

He could have prayed; “I know I have to die so let’s just get this over.” In sullen acceptance, but instead He yielded His heart in love. How often I have prayed and given grudgingly but without surrender? I dodge the bullet of disobedience but miss the mark of true sacrifice.

But because Jesus gave His life in loving obedience, Peter was brought to full repentance, Nicodemus had opportunity to be courageous and a thief was brought to paradise. A rich man had the chance to learn how to give and just three days later Mary Magdalene got to be the first to see Him risen and alive. These all received because Jesus gave himself willingly. They became a part of the fragrance of the offering of Jesus. So what about this morning? Will we surrender whatever is in our hands today to God? Will we willingly let go of what is ours to gain something for others? Will we surrender and follow our Lord and offer a sacrifice with a sweet fragrance to God today?

A Beautiful Aroma

 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could – Mark 14:6-8a ESV

While my wife was away for three months, taking care of her sister because of a serious medical condition, today’s scripture became very real to me. Neighbors, fellow church members and sometimes even I, asked why she was taking so long. Sadly we sounded a lot like the folks in this familiar Bible story. It just seems to be part of our human nature to begin to question when a gift seems too costly. Even in the case where someone is giving to us, we sometimes react with the words, “You really shouldn’t have!” But if they buy a new car or a bigger home for themselves, we all shout, “Wow! Fantastic!”

When someone like the woman in today’s verse gives extravagantly, without expecting in return, we start criticizing. Maybe the reason is because of our own miserly giving. Instead of pouring out on the feet of Jesus we have kept the perfume for ourselves. I have found that it helps to ask, “What will I do with my alabaster jar in heaven?”

What will I do with my alabaster jar?

Here is the only place and today is the only day I can break it and give it away to Jesus. Remember that we can still smell the beautiful aroma of this one woman’s gift after 2,000 years!