Worth in the Estimate of Wisdom
Luke 21:1-4
And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.

What is the real worth of a human action? Surely, to us who are acting every wakeful hour of life, a very serious question. How shall we decide that an action of ours is worthy or unworthy, and what is the standard by which we shall estimate the comparative excellence of worthy deeds? Our text gives us one principle by which to judge. There are, however, two others which are essentially Christian, that should be placed in the foreground. Acts are worthy -

I. As THEY ARE USEFUL; as they tend to promote well-being. And here we should note that their usefulness is greater:

1. As they affect character rather than circumstance.

2. As they are free from drawback; for the usefulness of many a course of action is the difference between the intentional good and the incidental evil that is wrought.

3. As they are permanently influential and therefore reproductive. Many a deed, being done, is done with; it has no appreciable results; but many another is as seed in the soil - there is a fruitful harvest to be reaped from it in the after-time.

II. ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT IN WHICH THEY ARE DONE. If useful things are done in the spirit of rivalry, or for the purpose of display, or in the hope of social or material remuneration, their worth in God's sight is nothing or next to nothing. If they are done to honor and to please Jesus Christ, or prompted by pure benevolence, or in the spirit of filial obedience, they have a real worth and are the objects of Divine approval. But the teaching of our text is that actions are worthy -

III. MEASURED BY THEIR UNSELFISHNESS. If at heart they are selfish, then in the judgment of God they are without virtue; in proportion to their generosity, and that is to say, to their costliness, they are beautiful, and even noble.

1. The gift of money. The widow's mite was more in the sight of God than the rich men's gold; and it was so because they gave of their abundance a sum the loss of which they would not feel - a sum that entailed no reduction of their comfort and constituted no sacrifice at all; but she gave all that she had - a sum she would miss much, a truly generous sacrifice. How often we applaud the donation of some hundreds of pounds, when the ten shillings contributed by some struggling worker has a higher place in the heavenly ledger!

2. The gift of time. The man whose easy circumstances allow him to give much time to religion or philanthropy may be less worthy and may be making a really smaller contribution than he who, pressed hard by pecuniary obligations and having a heavy burden of family responsibility to carry, yet squeezes a few hours from toilful days to ]end a helping hand to the cause of Christ and of man. The horae subscecivae are of more account than many leisure days.

3. Active service in the field of Christian labor. Some men are so constituted that they can render service in the pulpit, on the platform, in the class-room, almost without cost; they can speak without previous preparation and without subsequent exhaustion. But others can only serve at much cost to themselves; their strength is taxed to be ready for the hour of opportunity, they expend themselves freely in the act of utterance or in the outpouring of sympathy and they know what the miseries of prostration mean. A slight service, as reckoned by the time-table or the census, on the part of these latter may be more than equal to very prominent and much-appreciated work rendered by the former.

4. The sacrifice of life. It might seem that those who gave their life for their Lord or for their kind were all offering a gift of the same value. But not so. Life has very different values at different stages. It is comparatively little for the man who has spent his days and his powers to surrender the short and uninteresting remainder; it is much for the young man who has all the pleasures and prizes of life within his reach to part with the bright, inviting future in order to serve his fellows; the deed is nobler, for the sacrifice is greater.

(1) Let us take care that we do not judge by the appearance only, or we shall be unjust.

(2) Let us be sure that every true act of worthy service is appreciated and will be owned of Christ. - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.

WEB: He looked up, and saw the rich people who were putting their gifts into the treasury.

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