Can a person bring more of nothing? Before your answer this question, let me tell you how the question came about … Friends of ours invited us over to their house for pizza. It was a fun time of food, conversation, and fellowship.
As we were eating, I shared how it sadden me to see people come to the house of God and not grow into mature Christians. It seems as if people just bring “more of nothing when they come to church,” I said. Then, our friend shared that sometimes people bring “worse then nothing.” My wife laughed and said, “Wait a minute … are you guys listening to what you’re saying? How can you have more of nothing? And, how can you have worse than nothing?” We all laughed hysterically as one by one we chimed in with our comments about how ridiculous that sounded. A mathematical equation that says 0 + 0 = 0. And, there’s even a song written in 1974, by Billy Preston, titled Nothing Plus Nothing Leaves Nothing. Our friend said, “OK, Billy where are you going to go with this … I know there is Biblical application here somewhere that you’re dying to share”.
The funny thing is, the spiritual application did not come to me right then. It wasn’t until a day later when I was meditating on God’s word and asked,”Lord, what was all that more of nothing all about”? That’s when the story of The Widows’s Offering in Mark 12:41-44 came to me. Let me give you a little background first. Earlier on in Chapter 12, Jesus had finished teaching in the temple; warning the people to beware of teachers of religious law. For they liked the seat of prominence, fancy clothes, the honor of the people, yet they cheated widows out of their property. They pretended to be pious by saying long prayers in public. In the story of The Widow’s Offering the Scriptures say, Then Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. (comparable to a halfpenny in today’s currency) Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.
There are things that we place tremendous value on that have no value to The Lord at all. That’s what I meant by bringing “more of nothing.” The reality is we do bring something but what it amounts to is of little or no value to God. The widow putting the two coins into the collection represented her giving to God the sum of all that she had and the heart of who she was. The value of these coins was only six minutes of a day’s work. If she had only six minutes of life to live I believe she would have given it in serving Jesus. When it comes to giving or serving, The Lord God determines what is valued. To know what God values, you have to know God. God is constantly looking at our hearts and He knows what we hold dear. God desires love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in the Holy Spirit. These are what God values. And, if we are not bringing what God values, we are really bringing “more of nothing.”
Here’s something scary to think about — could we be bringing to God something “worse then nothing?” Jesus shares the story about two men who went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a despised tax collector.
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: “I thank you, God, I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I am certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.” But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, “O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.”
In comparison, we see that the Pharisee not only brought nothing to God in his prayer but he actually brought something “worse than nothing” … Pride. He relied on himself and not God. His prayer was prideful, focusing on himself and what he had accomplished. It was as if he did not need God’s help but that God needed his. This is what my friend meant when she said people can bring to God something “worse than nothing.” The Tax Collector, however, did bring something to God and it was of great value. It was humility. He confessed that he was a sinner in need of The Lord’s help and mercy.
There have been times that I entered the house of God with a bad attitude. I mean it stunk. Others may not have smelled me but my wife and kids sure did. Yes, we may look good on the outside but what’s going on in the inside is a whole other story. Jesus is interested in what’s going on in the inside. He is looking at our heart. So what does The Lord value? We see that The Lord valued the widow’s and the tax collector’s humility.
The next time you enter the house of God, take a moment to check yourself. What is it that you are bringing and is it what God values? 2 Corinthians 13:5 says to
Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.