Key Scriptures: Mark 12:41-44 (Luke 21:1-4), Hebrews 13:15-16, Romans 12:1-2, Proverbs 21:3, Ephesians 5:2, 1 Samuel 15:22, Psalm 51:17, 2 Samuel 24:24, Proverbs 3:9, 1 John 3:16-18, Micah 6:7-8, Mark 7:9-13
Guiding Question: What does God consider a sacrifice from Christians and how much sacrifice does He want from us?
Introductory Activity: Have students think of a problem in the world they are passionate about solving. It could be a global issues like starvation or something local like raising funds to help pay the medical bills of a child in their school. Encourage them to think of something they believe they would do almost anything to help solve.
Then ask them how many would be willing to give the following things if they knew without a doubt it would have a significant impact on solving the problem.
- An hour of their time
- Five hours a week of their time
- Every Saturday (all day and evening) for five years
- $5 of their own money
- $50 of their own money
- All of the money they have at the moment, plus 80% of any money they get for the next year
- Going without their favorite foods for a year (and eating only foods they don’t particularly care for
- Giving up their phone entirely for a day
- Giving up their phone entirely for a month
- Giving up their phone entirely until college
- Going to jail
Ask them why they were willing to do some things and not others. If someone came in the room right now and expected them to do the things they said they would do, do they think they would actually follow through and do them?
Lesson: (Questions for students are in bold italics.) Read Mark 12:41-44. What was the point Jesus was trying to make? Why did the large amounts of money the wealthy give not please God? Why was the pittance the widow gave so valuable to God? What potential consequences did the widow face by giving all of her money to God? (You may need to remind students there was not really any help for people like the widow – who probably had no relatives – other than perhaps begging.)
From the beginning, God has required people to sacrifice in order to show their love and devotion for Him. During Old Testament times, those sacrifices were often animals, grain or other material goods. Many people quickly began to miss the point of a sacrifice and only focused on the minimum requirement. The definition of a sacrifice is giving up something valued for the sake of something considered more important or worthy – in this case God. God wanted more than just things though. He wanted the hearts of the people. Sacrifices were meant to reveal the heart of the person.
Sacrifices were codified when Moses was given the Law on Mt Sinai. This meant people now knew exactly what kind of sacrifice and how much of it God wanted for each specific situation. But even then, people started to avoid doing the things they thought no one would notice. For example, others would notice if someone neglected to make a sacrifice on a holiday requiring them. They might not notice though if someone didn’t leave the corners of their fields of grain for the poor to have for food. By the time of Boaz, he was considered unusual for his generosity in allowing the poor to glean from his fields in the ways the Law required.
Of course, the first question people have about sacrifices is often how much God really expects us to give. It’s especially confusing, because Christianity did away with the sacrifices in the Old Testament and Jesus did not give a specific percentage. For some reason over the years, people decided that giving away 10% of one’s income was the correct amount. There is nothing in the New Testament to verify that particular number. People have gone back and added up all of the different requirements in the Old Testament and calculated they sacrificed 20-30% of what they earned each year.
Making it even more interesting is that the New Testament mentions quite a few things we are to offer as sacrifices to God. Even in the Old Testament God makes it clear that animal sacrifices are worthless if the person has not sacrificed more intangible things. Read the following scriptures. What does each passage teach us about the kinds of sacrifices God wants from us? What word would you use to describe the extent of each sacrifice?
- Hebrews 13:15-16 (do good, share what you have, praise)
- Romans 12:1-2 (bodies)
- Proverbs 21:3 (righteousness, justice)
- Ephesians 5:2 (walking in love)
- 1 Samuel 15:22 (obedience to God’s commands)
- Psalm 51:17 (broken spirit, broken and contrite heart)
- Proverbs 3:9 (wealth and first fruits)
- 1 John 3:16-18 (willing to die, help those in need)
- Micah 6:7-8 (act justly, love mercy, walk humbly)
- Mark 7:9-13 (care for relatives)
- Philippians 2:3 (sacrificing for others because we consider them more important than ourselves)
Once again, no specific amounts are given, but it is obvious God expects our giving to be what is called sacrificial. In modern terms, we might say God expects us to give until “it hurts” – meaning it isn’t given from our access, but is truly sacrificial. There is a really interesting exchange involving David in 2 Samuel 24:24. What do we learn about sacrifice from David in this passage? David had a chance to make a pretty large sacrifice at no cost to himself. Sounds like a good bargain, right? But notice David’s reaction. He realized that if he didn’t have to pay for the sacrifice, he wasn’t really sacrificing anything at all!
What does sacrificial giving look like for your age group? For adults?
Skills Activity:Review the key points in the lesson. While it is difficult to be sure when a Christian is truly giving sacrificially, it is interesting to note the effect Jesus noticed in the story of the widow’s mite is still happening today. A review of income tax returns in the United States found that the top 20% of wage earners donated 2.1% of their income. The actual amount is probably thousands or even millions of dollars in some cases, but it is still a very small percentage of what they made. On the other hand, the bottom 20% of wage earners donated 4.3% of their income. Still much less than the minimum 10% suggested in Christian circles, but do you see what happens? People tend to think in total amounts, not percentages as they get richer. Or perhaps they get or are more selfish.
Give students various scenarios they might experience now or in the future as adults. What would the average person do to help? The average Christian? A Christian who gave sacrificially? Make sure to include scenarios where it would require time or good deeds, not just money. Have students present scenarios. Remind them this is a struggle all Christians face throughout their lives. Even those who give generously should constantly make sure they are giving sacrificially – especially as the world around us becomes more and more selfish.
Application Challenge: Read the scriptures from the lesson. What does sacrificial giving look like in your life? If you aren’t giving one of the sacrifices mentioned in the lesson to God, plan ways to begin sacrificing those things to Him.