“He looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.” —Luke 21:1,2

RECENTLY, THE New York Times daily paper had a twenty-page section devoted to “Giving.” Featured on the first page were pictures of billionaire Ted Turner standing alongside Oseola McCarty, with the caption, “From the Heart,” followed by, “Ted Turner gave a lot—$l billion. Oseola McCarty gave her all—a life savings of $150,000.”


The article explaining the cover story picture was entitled, “Why Do We Donate? It’s Personal.” The introduction spoke of philanthropy and the fact that “individual living Americans—not corporations, not bequests—account for nearly 80% of the whopping amount of money ($150.7 billion in 1996) donated for philanthropic purposes each year.”

It was said, while the rich can afford to give more per capita, the middle class has been the backbone of American philanthropy in this century. The article continued saying concerning Ted Turner that his pledge of $1 billion for United Nations social programs over the next 10 years stands out even among the super-rich. When reporters asked Mr. Turner why he gave to charity, he acknowledged the more complicated personal dynamics involved in all charitable contributions, and said, “I’ve been learning how to give.”

In contrast, what motivated 89-year-old Oseola McCarty to take $150,000—her life savings as a laundrywoman—and establish a scholarship fund for black students at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, her hometown?

This contrast on “Giving” published in the New York Times reminds Bible Students of our Lord Jesus’ words as he sat in the Temple and observed those putting their gifts into the treasury. We read of this in Mark 12:41-44, which says, “Jesus sat over against [opposite] the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” What a powerful lesson Jesus gave his disciples!

The attribute of generosity is patterned after God’s character. He is always giving, and we are always receiving. When we become generous we come closer to being in his image. As the Apostle James wrote, “Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”—James 1:17

There can be no doubt that the greatest gift given by God to men was his Son, Jesus, to be our Savior. Likewise, we should never forget the generosity of our Lord Jesus in this plan, because he was willing to lay down his life as our Redeemer. The contrast we have in our society of rich and poor was used by the Apostle Paul to describe this willingness on the part of Jesus: “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” (II Cor. 8:9) In his prehuman existence, Jesus, God’s first direct creation, was a glorious being assisting the Father. (Col. 1:15) He was rich, but gave up his riches to be made flesh and to dwell among us, becoming poor in contrast.


The New York Times section on “Giving” contained many topics related to philanthropy, which is a combination of two Greek words—phileo—and—anthropos—meaning literally ‘loving mankind’. It is defined as ‘goodwill to fellowman’, especially an active effort to promote human welfare. The Times section contained five one-page ads by different charitable organizations seeking funding. The section covered every form of philanthropy: volunteer work, creative people, gifts to the arts, museums, opera and churches, and the different approaches to solicit funds.

We are living in “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4), therefore an article entitled, “In a World of Good Causes, Beware Waste and a Few Crooks.” People have given freely to ‘Good Causes’, only to find that the great bulk of the money went for administration of the charity, and very little went to its designed recipients. Likewise, good causes can be used by dishonest people to line their own pockets.


Only the feature article probed the motivation for giving, which to the Lord’s people is of utmost importance. What should be the proper motive for giving? Jesus gave the answer when a scribe came to him to ask a question. Jesus had skillfully answered questions posed by the Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees—all trying to entrap him. This scribe observed that Jesus had answered well, and asked, “Which is the first commandment of all?” (Mark 12:28), doubtless referring to the Decalogue. Jesus replied that the first, the chief, of all the commandments is, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart.”

Our Lord quoted from Deuteronomy 6:4-6. How wonderfully comprehensive the statement! Who today could more completely epitomize the great truth of this text? Heavenly wisdom was manifested in its first statement. The same heavenly wisdom was manifested in our Lord’s reference to it. He added nothing, because nothing could be added.

The Bible reveals forgiveness, which has been Divinely arranged through the giving of the precious blood of Christ as the Lamb of God. (John 1:29) It also tells us that this forgiveness of sins is not merely for the church, the elect—a little flock now being called out from the world—but that eventually the love of God will be manifested to all of his creatures. These will come to a knowledge of that Divine love in due time. They may renounce sin and accept the Divine provision—receiving in return, under Messiah’s kingdom, the great blessing of restitution of mental, moral and physical perfection, lost through Father Adam’s disobedience.


Jesus elaborated on the scribe’s original question, explaining that the second commandment stands related to the first; namely, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Mark 12:31) This law of God, now nearly four thousand years old, was indirectly made known through the Jews to other nations and peoples (Deut. 4:6-8), but none of them grasped its true import.

Truly everything in the law of God stamps it as Divine. How beautiful the world would be, with all its thorns, thistles and difficulties, if men were only able and willing to live up to these two grand laws—each man loving the Heavenly Father supremely, serving him with every power and talent, and loving his neighbor as himself, seeking to serve that neighbor as he might have opportunity! That would be Paradise. Thank God, this is what we are assured the world will yet be, when the Messianic kingdom is established.

The Divine arrangement which provided the death of Christ as an offset for Adam’s sin has also provided the reign of Christ as the offset of the reign of sin and death. And the Divine promise assures us that ultimately all who love and desire righteousness and truth shall be blessed and perfected, and shall have everlasting life. It assures us also that the earth, God’s ‘footstool’, will be made glorious, during the millennial reign of Messiah. Eventually all lovers of sin, refusing to make progress in righteousness, will be destroyed from among the people. (Acts 3:23) Thus will the happy day be ushered in for which we have so long prayed: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is done in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10) Then will be fulfilled the promise that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, and the whole earth be filled with the glory of God.—Phil. 2:11


The scribe was impressed, and conceded the truth of Jesus’ answer. He said, “Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God!”—Mark 12:32-34

By this the Master meant that the scribe was very near to the point where he might become one of his disciples—one of those waiting for the kingdom, hoping for it, striving for it, preparing for it. It was such ‘Israelites indeed’ (John 1:47), in whom was no guile, that Jesus especially sought to gather from among the Jewish people, preparatory to throwing open to the Gentiles the door to kingdom privileges. The Jews understood that at his coming Messiah would select a kingdom class, to which would be granted Divine power. This is what Jesus was doing. His words, his teachings, were drawing some and repelling others.

All the sincere and the honest hearted are like this young scribe—‘not far from the kingdom’. If their honesty and sincerity led them to zeal to know and to do the will of the Father, then they will be blessed; for “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear [reverence] him; and he will shew them his covenant.”—Ps. 25:14


It was Jesus’ turn to ask a question, which he did, the question being one concerning Christ being David’s son and Lord. The Mark account makes it appear that he asked the large crowd listening to him (Mark 12:35-37), but the account in Matthew 22:41-46 says that he asked the question of the Pharisees. To the delight of the crowd listening, they could not answer him. Jesus then warned the throng of the pride and hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees.

These events served as a background for the observations Jesus made of those putting their money into the treasury and of the widow’s mites placed there. What was the motivation for these donations? For any donation to be fully acceptable it had to be accompanied by a love for God—and not for God alone, but for all mankind. It is such motivation that the Father is seeking from his people, for such was the motivation of this widow—which Jesus knew, because he could read her heart.

This little incident shows us the Heavenly Father’s appreciation of sacrifices and services. It is not the great things that any of us do, or attempt to do, that he highly esteems. The very least affairs of our lives, the small sacrifices, and the insignificant self-denials that would, in the world’s sight be nothing, in the Master’s sight will be great if they denote a devotion and self-sacrifice to God and his cause. Jesus was able to see this motivation in the widow, and of her it could be said, as it was of Mary when she anointed our Lord with costly perfume, “She hath done what she could.”—Mark 14:3-8. See also John 12:1-8.

The widow and her mite is an appropriate picture of the consecration of a class being called out of the world to be joint-heirs with Christ. The Apostle James describes them as “the poor of this world rich in faith.” (James 2:5) Upon consecration to God we give all that we have. God in turn gives those things back to us and appoints us stewards over these, with the advice to use our possessions wisely and well in his service. This not only includes our wealth, time and talents, but also our entire being.

We cannot be sure, but it is possible that this widow became a consecrated follower of Christ in the Early Church. Of such self-sacrificing people God makes disciples. Do we love the Lord enough, and our neighbors as ourselves, to give all we have daily, until we finish our course? If we do, and succeed, we shall have an abundant entrance “into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”—II Pet. 1:11

Dawn Bible Students Association
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