Peter Marshall: All is the measure of Christian giving

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Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44

“There is no measure short of our all which is due by us to God, due as that which we owe to Him. And there are passages which embody this spirit, e.g. where it is said, “Ye are not your own; ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are His” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). And again where it is said, “I beseech you, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service ” (Romans 12:1).

If I might translate the spirit of these passages, and such as these, with reference to the subject before us, it would be to say, that all we have, as well as all we are and all we enjoy, are His, Whose we are and Whom we serve: that, as being Christ’s, and thus bound to consider this human life, with all its energies and with all its capacities, moral, intellectual, and physical, as devoted to His service, so also we are to consider all our endowments of rank, wealth, and power, as only too unworthy a sacrifice to Him, from Whom we have received them all. This is unquestionably the spirit of the New Testament on the measure of giving.

Peter Marshall in his sermon “The Measures of Giving” preached in St. Ann’s Church, Manchester on 20 March 1862 in Money, And It’s Responsibilities: A Course of Sermons on Giving issued by a committee of churchmen (Manchester: Hale and Roworth, 1862) 18-19.

I am enjoying this PDF which contains five sermons on giving from 1862. This second one looks at the measure of Christian giving and sums up the New Testament teaching by proclaiming that “all” is the only right answer. It’s the only giving that Jesus celebrates.

So how would this measure compare to the measure of your giving?

For me, at least early on in my spiritual journey, I thought of it all wrong. I thought of money as mine and saw giving as me giving to God a portion of my money. I considered the rest as mine to keep for myself. I had it all backwards.

I might have been following the letter of the Old Testament law but I missed the spirit of New Testament giving. I discovered that all I am and all I have belong to God. That means He will care for me better than I can care for myself. But, I can’t just say that I trust Him; He wants me to show that I trust Him.

What does this have to do with generosity?

Fear kept us from giving “all” as we thought we’d end up empty. What we discovered in doing it is that Jesus is not trying to rob us but trying to help us trust in Him rather than to depend on ourselves to sustain us through life. When we trust God, we don’t end up empty, but rather, enriched.

Our only right response to Jesus is obedience. He explicitly instructs us to use all the money we possess and all of our capacities for Him and His service. It matters not what we say we believe. We show we are His by how we handle His money totally different from the world.

As Sophie and I make our way home to Colorado today after she has finished her college experience, I find great joy in knowing that she understands this and is marrying a young man named Peter who gets it too! And thankfully, our son Sammy and his fiancé, Emily, also grasp this mindset.

As they give their all, their generosity has limitless potential. This gives me hope for the future.