daily biblical sermons

We should give to God all that we have, our whole life
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Saturday, Ninth Week of the Year, June 06, 2020
2 Timothy 4:1-8, Psalm 70, Mark 12:38-44

Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“And he [Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came, and put in two 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 treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living’” (Mark 12:41-44).



Today Jesus presents us with a new way of living, namely living completely for God; not for ourselves. Few, I think, are the people that live this way. Most, it seems, live for themselves and their own worldly pleasures. One wonders how happy they really are, for they are living in a way that is opposed to the way that God wants them to live. God wants them to love him with their whole heart, and with their whole soul, and with their whole mind, and with their whole strength (Mark 12:30). When one does this, despite the ordinary problems of daily life and health, one will be happy in his inner spirit if he is a justified Christian who trusts in Christ for his own righteousness, for no one can make himself righteous by his own merits, by his own good works.



If one tries to make himself righteous by his own merits, he will fail, for no one can justify himself by his works, but only by faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:20, 28; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9). If he tries to do it on his own, he will be swimming against the current and will not succeed in becoming righteous or happy in his inner spirit with God.



But if one puts his faith in Jesus Christ and repents of his previous sinful and worldly life, everything changes. God will then consider Christ’s death on the cross as paying the heavy debt that he has with God of suffering in punishment for his sins, and so God will acquit him from them and reckon to him his [God’s] own righteousness (Romans 4:5). And so such a person will become righteous through his faith in Christ.



This enables him to walk in the light, and the number one thing that he will want to do is to stay on God’s good side, for God is his great benefactor. God has rescued him from the darkness and depression of sin and shown his light within his heart. The justified Christian does not want to lose this new status, this new quality of life, by offending God through sinning, through disobeying his biblically revealed moral law.



How, then, should such a person live? He should be very careful to obey God’s normative biblically revealed moral law, and he should live for God alone and give to him his whole self, all his time, love, and work.



A person who does this may be contributing very little in terms of monetary wealth or human services, judged by worldly standards, but he is doing the one all-important thing, he is giving himself totally and completely to God in love, giving his whole life to him, as this poor widow in today’s gospel did. She had only two copper coins worth a penny, and she dropped both of them into the temple treasury for the Lord. Jesus said that she gave more than all the rich people who contributed large sums. Why did she give more? “She had cast in more in proportion to what she had, than they had in proportion to their substance” (John Gill, 1697-1771). She probably denied herself the money she needed for her lunch that day and trusted in God that someone would give her something to eat or that she would be able to fast that day for the love of God.



She truly had to deny herself to give what she did, even though by worldly standards what she gave seemed negligible. But it did not seem negligible to God nor to Jesus, who said, “This poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury” (Mark 12:43).



What made her gift so great was that she contributed her whole self, everything she had, her whole living. “For they [the rich] all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living” (Mark 12:44). This is what we also should do, but of all those that contribute to God, “how few deny themselves of one comfort, even the least, that they may advance the kingdom of Christ!” (Albert Barnes, 1798-1870). What God wants of us is not to put a $10 bill or even a $100 bill into the Sunday collection basket. He wants us to give our whole self to him, even if we can only contribute a penny to the Sunday collection.



If we contribute our whole life to God, he will regard our penny as more than those who contribute a hundred dollars every Sunday. Jesus’ saying about this widow having put in more than all the rest “turned upside down the normal human valuation of people. What matters in God’s sight is not what a person has (and therefore is able to give without pain) but the devotion which causes her to give even at great personal cost, even though the amount of the gift may be completely negligible in comparison with the enormous wealth of the temple” (RT France, The Gospel of Mark (The New International Greek Testament Commentary; William B Eerdmans, 2002), page 493, emphasis added).



What Jesus is talking about is a whole new way of living. I don’t think his primary concern here is our financial contribution to our parish or to the temple, but rather a new way of living in this world, a life of faith in the Son of God. Jesus has many sayings that describe this new life of faith. It is a life of self-denial that literally seeks to live for God alone, to the degree that that is possible in this life. We must give our body what it needs to live, be healthy, and have the energy we need to do the work that God has given us. But that being said, there’s a big difference between a person who eats a T-bone steak every night and one that dines on the simplest of food, avoiding delicacies, even seasoning, unhealthy but tasty fried food, sweets, etc.



If a person does this for the love of God, because he wants to love God alone with all the love of his heart, to the degree that that is possible, and to love his neighbor as himself, then God will be pleased with his way of life and will bless him.



Jesus tells us what a life of perfection is. It is basically what I’ve been saying, it is to live like this poor widow, living the simplest, poorest life, denying oneself all luxury and pleasures, only sustaining oneself in good health, and giving everything else to the Lord.



What does Jesus say this perfect life is? He says, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21).



The opposite of this is to live like a rich man surrounded by worldly pleasures, distractions, and pastimes, a life of fun and games and splendid banquets every day. Such a life – the life of a rich man – will scarcely get you into heaven. What did Jesus say about this? He said, “Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-24).



St. Peter got the point of what Jesus was saying. Remember, Peter abandoned his boat and nets to follow Jesus. Peter said, “Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?” (Matthew 19:27). Peter is doing the right thing, leaving everything to follow Christ, leaving a worldly life of worldly pleasures, perhaps leaving a sinful life to follow Jesus. Peter wants to know what he will have, and Jesus tells him that he will have a hundredfold reward, for everyone that denies himself and abandons his worldly life will be blessed by God. “Every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29).



So Jesus is truly turning the value system of this world upside down. Those that the world considers first, Jesus considers last. And those that the world considers last, Jesus considers first. Who are the ones that the world considers last? They are those that renounce everything they have of their own to live totally for God with all their heart and soul, mind and strength. The world has no place for such people. They are the last in the world’s eyes; but with God they are the first. And who are those that the world considers first, but God considers last? They are those that live it up in this world, enjoying all its worldly pleasures and forgetting about God and his moral law. These will be the first in the world, but the last with God, for “many that are first will be last, and the last first” (Matthew 19:30).



This poor widow in today’s gospel surely is one that the world considers last; but Jesus tells us that she is the first in his estimation. We should therefore imitate her. How few imitate this way of life! Most people will indulge in all the pleasures that they can legitimately have without falling into sin. That is hardly what this widow did. That would be just living a basically worldly life, but stopping short of sin. Jesus is asking for something much more radical than that, of which this poor widow, who cast everything she had into the temple treasury, is the example.



So what Jesus is asking us to do is to literally lose our life in this world for God’s sake, for the love of God. And he tells us that if we do, we will truly save our life, “For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35). This poor widow lost her life for the Lord’s sake, and she is therefore the one who truly finds her life and saves it with God. Those, on the other hand, that make their goal to enjoy life and its pleasures, but stop short of sin, will be those that are trying to save their life in this world as much as they can. What will happen to them? They will lose their life, “for whoever would save his life will lose it” (Mark 8:35).



We have to die to the world and to a worldly way of living if we want to imitate this widow. Like St. Paul we should be able to say, “Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). To do this in concrete details is to live a very different kind of life than most people around you are living. It is to live a very simple and plain life in everything you do, in how you eat, how you dress, and how you spend your time. In short, we are not to be of the world any more than Jesus was of the world, for we are his disciples, about whom Jesus said, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16).

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