Unlocking the Tight Fist

Luke 21:1-4 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”


Prayer: Loving and Merciful God, help me to turn my entire life over to you so that my actions might bring you joy. Help me to remember that my body should be offered to you as a “living sacrifice.” In Christ’s name. Amen.


  1. If I took a poll of the congregation this morning concerning why your pastor would choose this time to begin talking about the financial aspects of stewardship, the opinion would be that he has lost his marbles and could not have selected a worst time. Two days after Thanksgiving and almost into the Christmas. In my defense, November 27th is “Giving Tuesday” – a time when we examine our generosity.
  2. Well — I have not lost my marbles. One way or another all of us are on fixed incomes and recently the stock market has lost all of its gains for 2018. We have not had any newer income for a while. Our job security, if we have a job, may be tenuous. Even our pensions and Social Security are fixed.
  3. Sure, it is a bad time to talk about money and church.
    1. In fact, most of us would think that we should not talk about money in church.
  4. But actually, it is an ideal time to step back — to take a timeout— to pause and remind ourselves that what really matters is that God is with us as we struggle and search for understanding in the world, we live in.
  5. This morning I want us to address the issue of Commitment to Christ through Financial Giving.
  6. Right now, I want to work with the Scripture message for today.
  7. All of us know this story about Jesus watching people give an offering to God. He says that the key to this story is the person who gives sacrificially — which means — giving from her poverty. The widow did that – she gave sacrificially — from her poverty – not her wealth.
  8. On the other hand – the other persons in the story gave from their wealth – not sacrificially. They gave as if they were placing a tip for services rendered. You know what I mean—they gave as if they had been presented with a bill from a restaurant – and they placed a tip on top of the bill.
  9. I remember when my children were working in restaurants and they were given tips for their service — they received hardly any money for a wage and solely depended upon the tips — the better tips came from the generous giver.
  • Are we generous with our money or do we hold it tightly in our fist? We are going to examine this — and you probably will be exasperated because the one thing we do not talk about is money – You will say —it is my money and it is personal what I do with my money.
  • But maybe – just maybe – after this morning we will have a little better understanding about our money and the way that we need to respond to God with our financial giving.
  • Every day we hear about the financial challenges. – middle class tax cuts – raising inflation – Trillion dollars in deficit. And we get scared about our money – will our pension or social security be affected? Will the economy tank if Congress doesn’t fix some of the issues that are restraining job development – the list goes on and on and we keep our money tightly help in our hand –hold the money on my hand,
  1. During the past several years, a new list of words bombard us straight out of the financial dictionary:— bailout, sub-prime mortgage, US Treasury buying preferred stocks of banks, leverage, housing market collapsing, mortgage foreclosures, Wall Street greed, consumer shock, 40% reduction, credit card debt, bankruptcy, Great Depression, Great Recession — fear, and as Warren Buffet has said — “now is the time to be greedy in the stock market when everyone else is in a panic mode.” Our financial and economic worlds are being whipped sawed about on a daily basis.
  • Even PGUMC’s endowment funds have been “whipsawed” back and forth.
  • We know of friends who have lost their jobs, church members who have lost their homes, retirees whose incomes have fallen drastically. People are wondering if we are entering another recession since the long term bubble of the stock market is beginning to show cracks.– especially since many of the industrialized nations are also feeling the same effects.
  • Overall there has been a sense of malaise — a feeling of concern – a sense of helplessness— a feeling of fear —- a feeling of possible panic — Sure—we constantly hear that our economy is doing better under the current administration — but have you actually experienced it? I doubt it! It’s more of “trickle up instead of trickle down.”
  • Who do we trust? — The banks? – The US Treasury? — The President? – do we trust Congress? Who do we trust? — And we really are not sure how to answer this question.
  • Let’s see who we really should trust – it is God to provide!
  • Let’s read the story in Luke 21, beginning in verse one, As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
  • Jesus chose the treasury as the place that he would give his final teaching before leaving the temple forever. Jesus contrasts the phony goodness of the religious leaders with the true devotion of the poor widow. It is important to know that Jesus speaks more about money than he does about faith. In fact – Jesus addresses money many times more than any other topic.
  • With this great story Jesus gives us three principles about giving;
  • The first principle is, God Cares about Our Giving.
  • God is interested in our giving because God has a plan for our giving. God’s plan is called tithing. The word “tithe” is in reality a very simple word it means one tenth.
    1. And I know that the word “tithe’ can cause a heart attack for most people sitting in the pews.
    2. Keep in mind our fist tightens when we talk about a tithe. We gasp! “Oh my God the pastor is going after my most sacred thing – my money!” But not so fast.
  • Throughout Scripture – God talks about giving one-tenth of what we earn to God’s kingdom. In Genesis – Abraham gives a tithe of his money. – The Israelites tithe – and the list goes on.
  1. But we struggle when the word tithe is used. But there are rich rewards for the person who is able to tithe – money is still important – but a spirit of generosity develops as a witness to the blessings that we have received from tithing.
  • In Malachi 3:10 we read; “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”
  • I can think of several reasons why some people do not tithe.
    1. Some people do not tithe because they have never been taught to tithe. It is the pastor’s responsibility to stress generosity in financial giving. Because of the way some people react to the mention of money, some pastors are naturally gun-shy about speaking on the subject. Although Jesus had more to say on this subject than any other single subject.
    2. Some people do not tithe because they do not understand the importance of tithing, or at least they say they don’t.
      1. I suspect that reason that at least some of them don’t tithe is they don’t want to. And if that is the reason, we need to be honest about it.
      2. So, what happens is when pastors speak on financial responsibility, certain members cry out in discomfort, criticizing the message and the messenger.
    3. Some people don’t tithe because they have tried to tithe the wrong way.
      1. For many years I wanted to tithe but I tried to tithe off of the bottom and not the top. By that I mean I would say, “If I have enough left after I have paid all my bills and stuff then I will tithe.” Or – do I tithe on the gross amount or the net amount. I will tell you from personal experience this philosophy will not work.
      2. To give to God off the top is a step of faith; it trusts God to provide for your needs. Stop bargaining, and start trusting (“Lord, here is our love gift. Thanks for taking care of us!”)
  • What we give to God deserves priority. God should not receive our leftovers. As is all too common, the leftovers mysteriously shrink in size to take care of things that are not necessities.
  1. The second principle is, God Cares About How We Give
  • The people brought their gifts to God and Jesus sat in the shadows and watched the people. We can never escape the watchful eye of God. God sees us as we earn the money and as we determine what we will give to the Lord’s work through the church. God watches as we write the check and God knows whether or not it is a tithe.
    1. When it comes to giving, it is the attitude of the heart makes all the difference.
    2. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 9: 7, “So let each one give as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
    3. The kind of giving that impresses God is giving that cost us!
      1. We are told that this woman is not just a widow she is a poor widow, which describes abject poverty, a pauper rather a poor peasant.
      2. When it says, “She gave out of her poverty her whole livelihood,” it conveys the idea of “the means by which life is sustained.” All the others had given more but they also had given “out of their abundance” or surplus. What they had given would never be missed, but she had given sacrificially.
  • Tell the story of Paul Warren.
  1. The third principle is, God Cares About How Much We Give
    1. Jesus not only observed their giving, and how they gave, he observed what they gave. He saw the rich people come along and some of them put in rather large sums of money. As they did Jesus did not say a word, He just kept on watching. And then along comes the poor widow and drops in the two smallest coins possible. It was not the amount that was important but the proportion. “When it come to our giving, God sees more than the portion: he also sees the proportion.”
    2. Although what she gave was not much in monetary value, she gave all that she had. Jesus could remain silent no longer and he said, “She has given more than all the rest.”
  • God wants you to be committed. And yet we cannot give ourselves to God apart from our money.
    1. It is true that money tells where our hearts are?
    2. If Jesus watched you give, what would His opinion of your giving be?
  • Here is where we are:
    1. A church where most of the members tithe does not need to have fundraising programs to support the budget.
    2. They do not have to have special request for funds to complete the budget.
    3. They are generous in their mission work — our PGUMC program work is 4% of our budget – that does not sound very generous to me. Most of our money is spent on ourselves. – on operating expenses – phone, internet, heat and electricity, salaries and taxes.
    4. We give little to missions and programs.
  • Here is the plan – you know where you are in your giving – so you ask yourselves how can I be more generous?
    1. If you miss Sunday worship – include in your check the amount that you missed — most only give on the Sundays they come.
    2. Gradually increase your giving – If you give $5 now – increase it to $10. If you give 3% of your money (this is the average) gradually increase it to 4% and then to 5%– and so on to a tithe. It will take time to adjust your lifestyle – to set what is important to you.
    3. Start by holding 10% for God and then save 10% and then spend the rest.
    4. Develop a more generous attitude – and open your fist that tightly holds on to your money – It will be amazing how God will reward you.
  • Remember John Wesley’s words – “Earn all that you can – save all that you can and give all that you can.”
  1. Thanks be to God.