Where Your Heart Is . . .
Mark 12:38 and following (Also Luke 21:1 and following.)
Mark 11:27 says as Jesus was walking in the temple, the Chief Priests, the Scribes, and the Elders came to Him and began to question Him.
These were the nation’s leaders and had the authority to take away people’s rights to enter the temple. Because of this authority, people feared these leaders. In John 9:22, we see people that were afraid to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah because the leaders had determined to expel anyone who dared to say Jesus was the Messiah. However, Jesus was not intimidated. Mark chapter 12 gives the account of the confrontation between these leaders and Jesus. Although they were the most clever men in Israel, they could not overcome Jesus through argument or trickery. So, while keeping an eye on Him, they did not try to ask Jesus any more questions.
This brings us to Mark 12:41, where Jesus sits down opposite the treasury. At the beginning of the confrontation, Jesus was walking in the temple. Now, this verse tells us that Jesus was sitting. His location was intentional. Jesus had been in the temple often, yet we are not told that He seated Himself here before this.
Through the writings of Rabbis, history tells us the treasury was made of thirteen brass chests. Each one had a mouth shaped like a trumpet to catch money. They were located in the “Court of the Women,” which was also called the outer court. Each “trumpet” was inscribed with what it was for. Nine chests were for the required temple offerings and sacrifices, that is, money donated in place of other sacrifices. Four strongboxes were for freewill offerings, which were used for wood, incense, temple decoration, and burnt offerings.1
Jesus sat watching the people putting money into the offering boxes.
Let’s think about what Jesus was doing.
On the first day of the week, He rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey’s colt. By this action, Jesus declared to all present that He was the expected Messiah, and the common people received Him as the Messiah. They sang praises to God for David’s kingdom, which they thought was soon to be restored.
However, Jesus had a kingdom in mind that people could not see. Jesus did not head to the seat of government. He did not confront the Roman governor, and he did not claim the throne. Instead, He went to the temple.
The next day He chased all those who were buying and selling out of the temple.
By focusing on the temple, Jesus was pointing to the spiritual kingdom of God. His heart and mission were fixed on the invisible kingdom of God.
When the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt, God sent Moses to deliver them. Then through the period of the judges, God was their king. So, when Israel asked for a king, God told Samuel that they were not rejecting Samuel. Instead, they were rejecting God from ruling over them. Jesus’ generation was doing the same.
The temple was the symbol of God’s presence in Israel. At the time of Moses, during their wilderness travels, the children of Israel saw the cloud by day and fire by night. The cloud and the fire were the visible presence of God. When the temple was built, it replaced the tabernacle. The temple became the reminder of God’s presence in the nation.
However, just like their forefathers, the Jews of Jesus’ day did not want God to rule over them. Their hearts were fixed on the things of this world. They wanted prosperity and freedom and believed they would first have to be delivered from the Romans. They wanted a Messiah who would deliver them from the Romans, and bring prosperity and freedom.
Jesus was the Messiah they were looking for, but it was not time to restore the kingdom to Israel. In Acts 1:6-7, Jesus implies that the time for that is yet to come. However, at this time, when Jesus was in the temple, Jesus had no intention of taking a secular or governmental throne. Instead, He took authority over the temple. Mark 11:16 says, “He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple.” How one man could stop a whole marketplace is a question I cannot answer. But Jesus did it. He took control of the temple so that the leaders asked Him by what authority He was acting.
Jesus’ purpose and mission were to establish the kingdom of God in people’s hearts and minds. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes that Jesus was talking to in the temple had been entrusted with nurturing this kingdom of God. Still, they had instead used their positions for personal gain. In His confrontations with these leaders, Jesus exposed the truth behind their pious behavior; they were hypocrites and fakes.
Now, He sat watching people give their offerings. And then He called His disciples over to share His observations.
Now is an excellent place to share an important point. This was Jesus’ last full day of public teaching before going to the cross. Every action He took was meant to communicate crucial truth. He was not sitting because He was tired, but because He wanted to teach something. He had often been in the temple, and He chose this day to cover this subject.
Mark 12:41 says:
Mark 12:41 (NKJV) Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much.
At this point, I want to pay close attention to two words in what we just read. The term “saw” is also translated as “watched,” and carried the meaning of observing or analyzing. The root of the word implies the idea of discerning the meaning of what is being watched. This word “watched” is paired with the word “how.” The definition of this word is “in what manner.” In other words, Jesus was watching to discern in what manner the people were putting in their offerings.
Early in His ministry, Jesus taught about giving. He said:
Matthew 6:1–4 (NKJV) 1Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.
“The Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you.” Jesus taught that giving was done for God and not for people. He also warned against giving for appearance or show. In Mark 12, the text does not say that the rich were giving dramatically or giving for performance. However, in Jesus watching and discerning in what manner the giving is done is implicit the idea that He knows what is in the heart. For example, how did He know that the two mites the widow put in were all that she had?
Mark 11:41 reminds us that God is interested in our giving and watches it. But He does not observe the offering box to see how much is put in. He sees and knows how much, but He is more interested in the heart doing the giving.
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 teaches us some principles for giving.
2 Corinthians 9:6–7 (NKJV) 6But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
From this, we gather that giving should be planned or purposed. It should be abundant, and it should be done cheerfully.
However, Jesus defines “abundantly” for us with the example of the widow. Although her gift was very small, Jesus said she had put in more than all those giving to the treasury. Mark takes the trouble to explain the value of the coins she put in. She put in two mites, which make a quadrans. Putting this in today’s money is tricky because of inflation and the differences in our economies. However, I will do my best. My numbers are taken from the pulpit commentary, but the commentaries do not all agree on amounts. The quadrans spoken of here was one-fourth of a Roman “as.” An “as” was one-tenth of a denarius. A denarius is often considered the equivalent of one day’s labor. So, if we arbitrarily say that a day of work would bring $100, then the two mites the widow gave would be worth about $2.50. This is not enough to buy a gallon of milk, but Jesus said she put in more than everybody else.
In his account, Luke tells us that Jesus said, “For all these out of their abundance have put in offerings.” (Luke 21:4)
We value things according to our measures. In the thinking of all that were there, the rich were obviously giving much more — larger coins in larger amounts. We have a tendency to judge in the same way. This is why James says:
James 2:1–4 (NKJV) 1My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. 2For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, 3and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” 4have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
The ending of James’ statement is ominous — “with evil thoughts.” We focus on this world and all it contains, but God knows our hearts.
Jesus spent a lot of time trying to help His disciples and the people of His day see where their values were. At one point, He said:
Matthew 6:19–21 (NKJV) 19“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
This statement is at the core of what Jesus was teaching:
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
When he and His disciples left the temple, one of the disciples mentioned the temple’s magnificence. It indeed was a magnificent building. But Jesus warned that it would soon be destroyed.
Out of all the people in the temple that day, one poor widow got it right. While everyone around her was worried about kingdoms, authority, position, possessions, and power, she humbly gave everything she had to God.
This is what it means to love the Lord our God with all our hearts. Our fixation on the things of this world and its kingdoms is described as evil thoughts by James. Are we willing to trust God with our whole livelihood?
1. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/mark/12-41.htm. Accessed March 5, 2021.