This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke. In Luke 20:46-47 and 21:1 – 4, Jesus makes the central point of two teachings, about poor widows.
Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely. Luke 20:46-47
As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.“Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1 – 4
There is a lot to glean from these verses. In the first set, Jesus shows his disdain for religious people walking around looking rich and important, as they stroll about in business, attend dinner parties and synagogue, and who sound spiritual. These same people Jesus said devour widows.
In today’s day-and-age, Jesus would be talking to people in church who have financial abundance, show-off their wealth, and try to be admired in public gatherings. Jesus isn’t against wealthy people, but he is not happy with those who get wealthy at the expense of the poor. Jesus highly favors the needy, and announced his earthly ministry in Luke 4:18-19 as good news to the poor. Throughout scripture, we can see heavenly favor on the poor, widows, orphans, immigrants and prisoners. The gospel isn’t about some redistribution of wealth program, but a plan for the hearts and minds of mankind. He is calling those with wealth to provide for the poor, and to give them opportunity to make a good wage to provide for themselves, even at some expense to their own standard of living.
In Luke 21:1-4, we see Jesus sitting as the Rabbis did. He was sitting close to the offering box and watched it closely. From the description, we can tell that he closely observed each person dropping in their money. The poor widow dropped in two very small copper coins, with a value of 1/8 of one cent. How else could Jesus have seen that small act, if he wasn’t sitting close to it. He observed the act, and had spiritual insight into each person’s heart. He rejoiced in the heart of the widow giving it all to God out of love and devotion. This unnamed person is one of the few people Jesus praised, and because of her act of faith and small but huge gift, has been famous for about 2,000 years. On the other hand, he saw the wealthy who only gave a small portion comparatively of their overall wealth. Have you ever had the internal conversation go like this, when writing out a check of tithe, or a charitable donation of any amount: “Oh I better not give too much, I do want to be a good steward, and not ding my financial net worth too much.” I don’ t think the poor widow had this conversation, she came to worship, and gave her all.
The take away for these verses is not only that the heart of the Jesus follower is inclined to the poor, but to give with a heart like the poor widow. Jesus is closely watching at our giving actions and into our hearts just like he did those many years ago in the synagogue. I am not saying this, to put our spirituality into some performance formula or anything else but to say that our giving, our helping and our employing others is important to Jesus, something we ought to take seriously. Have a conversation with Jesus about these matters, and see what he might reveal about your heart and where he might lead you.
Interesting side note. This blog post I make most Mondays, are a chronological walk through of the four gospels, examining any verse that involves money and stewardship. Coincidentally, my Pastor Rich Nathan preached on this same story, but from Mark 12:41-44, just yesterday; to watch this great teaching click here. This is the fifty-ninth post in this series.